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The Wave Sliders journal

ENTRY # 028


I wish I could have taken my mother with me to the beach today.

When I was in my mid-teens, my mom would try to discourage me from surfing at the nearby beach. All that “under-tow, and those sneaky rogue waves!”, she would caution. “Mom,” I’d counter, “the most dangerous part of the beach isn’t the surf, it’s the scene in the parking lot. The local crew is terrifying!”

That was mostly true for me, at the time. But with patience, humility and a bit of unhinged commitment, I would over the years come to learn the ways of those rogue waves and even how to navigate that infamous undertow. And now, perhaps even more importantly to me, I’ve come to embrace and even be embraced by that same local crew. The crew, who makes up the unwieldy tribe that holds court down at the end of the beach road, near the picnic table that overlooks the best sandbar. This same bunch, that once looked like thuggery, miscreants and a ragged band of misfit toys, today looks to me like a tribe. Like my tribe, my people, my friends, my happy place.  On this particular day, under the warmth of the October sun, all of them were **out there, and I know my mom was smiling at it all from up above. Not just because I was now more accomplished and a lot “safer” in the water than I once had been, but because she always appreciated eccentricity, outsiders, and counterculture, as do I. As do we—the surfers down at the end of the road, gathered around the picnic table.

In my earliest surf memories, the scene at our local break was cold, uninviting, and often hostile. There was a dilapidated little structure nearby that had once served as a functioning public bathroom but had over time partially fallen in on itself, and was now windowless and covered in graffiti. The roof had collapsed and one entire wall was missing all together. In the middle of the open structure, sat a lone toilet on a concrete slab, fully exposed to the world, buffeted by the daily onslaught of onshore winds. The toilet was referred to, with great respect, as “The Throne.” Though it had not functioned in years, The Throne was still full of piss. Some members of the crew would occasionally stuff grom’s heads down into the toilet bowl from time to time, dousing them in the ancient urine. This was either an act of punishment or praise, depending on the situation and one’s own perspective. The Throne ritual could be a right of passage for a grom, or a foul deterrent for anyone who might consider not adhering to the crew’s code of conduct. It served as a sort of porcelain carrot and stick, both deterring and demeaning those who might fall out of line.

Behind what was left of the old bathroom building, there was an expanse of untamed vines and thorns that formed a great, disorderly hedge which ran wild into some as yet undeveloped land. With the demise of the bathroom building, the hedge was the logical place to relieve one’s self before or after a surf. However, doing so was not without its risks. As groms, we were told that there were men who “met one another in those bushes”. The used condoms, and hypodermic needles littered about on the ground seemed to support this. And there were the whispers. Perhaps propositions or perhaps just the wind passing through the leafy hedges, those whispers were the stuff of legend and would quickly inject terror into even the bravest of pee’ers. More than once, having “heard something”, a surfer would come sprinting out of the bushes, terrified and wide eyed, still zipping up his pants as he ran, much to the delight of the nearby crew.

The crew were a group of eccentrics, roughnecks, intellectuals, and heavies—but otherwise warm-hearted individuals. They were the local surfers. I may have learned how to surf more less on my own, out in the ocean, but it was this group that held down the area at the end of the beach road, down by the picnic table, that would teach me how to be a surfer*.* Over time, I learned more from these guys than I did from even my best, most well intentioned teachers, scout leaders or sports coaches. I learned respect; respect for my elders, my peers, and for myself. I learned patience, persistence, humility, and self-governance. I learned to pay dues. I learned to judge a book by its cover, while at the same time, gaining a desire to read all matter of books, and not just the best sellers.

These days, the sun seems to shine a bit brighter than it used to down at the beach. The long, dirt road has been paved. The bathrooms work now and there are even warm showers to use after a surf. The men, who once used the bushes as their meeting place, have long since moved to online dating platforms. There are $5 dollar lattes nearby, and more than a few Teslas in the newly metered parking lot. iWatches and fancy running shoes abound, but down at the end of the road, by the same old picnic table, the crew remains—as if they never left (they didn’t). While much older now, they are still there watching over the surf, still proselytizing on crowds, conditions, kooks and conspiracy theories. They are still the same throwbacks, misfits, and die-hards that they ever were, and I have grown to love them.

Today it is warm, the wind is blowing gently off-shore and the earth’s October tilt means it will stay light out until well into the evening. It’s going to be one of those days out here and the whole cast of characters will soon be on scene.

First comes Regular Pete. Pete is Regular Pete because he is a regular foot, who only surfs on his forehand and also because he is the most regular amongst the regulars. Pete is always here, every day, at the picnic table or out in the water or holding some kid’s head in the toilet. Surf or no surf, Regular Pete is here. Amongst the crew, Regular Pete has ascended to the top of the tribal hierarchy, mainly due to his unwavering dedication to picnic table sand bar. But in recent years, he has also become the single, most vocal man in the water, enforcing the rules, and breathing fire on unsuspecting newcomers. Today many people call him, “Regulator Pete.”

Suddenly, a cacophony of sputtering, backfiring and rattling noises announce the arrival of Wrong Way TroyWrong Way rolls up in his beleaguered 1991 Ford Taurus station wagon. There is a ten-foot mass of dented fiberglass and duct tape, loosely secured to the roof by a pair of badly worn bungee cords. The car has no windows. Troy has a tendency to go right on obvious lefts, and left on obvious rights. While this can prove dangerous to those paddling out, everyone loves Wrong Way Troy.

Next to arrive on scene is Boogie MikeBoogie Mike is not the only bodyboarder to surf at this beach, but he is the only body boarder who is feared by nearly every surfer, and many beach goers, and even a few dogs. This is because Boogie Mike is heavy. He is rumored to pack heat and is a gang member, and for him—the beach is every bit a part of his turf. Boogie Mike also charges hard. Boogie Mike is respected first and foremost for this last attribute.

Though it is still fairly early, the beach is filling up fast. A big, gangster looking American sedan pulls slowly into the parking lot. Derek is here. Derek is perhaps the most revered member of the crew. He looks like a young Paul Newman and has no problem playing the leading role. Derek is not the oldest, not the biggest, but definitely one of the toughest and without question—one of the coolest members of the group. When called upon, he will act as judge and jury for all matters of alleged infractions. Today, Derek sits quietly in his late model Impala, and takes in the scene. Derek has swagger, confidence and the general presence of a natural born leader. The deep crows feet that emerge from under the sides of his black, wrap around sunglasses, only add to his good looks,  punctuating his persona. Derek has lived more lives in his 40-something years than the rest of the group put together and now serves as the patron saint of the picnic table crew. He has your back. He is there for anyone, and everyone, under any circumstances.  Derek’s got you, and everyone has Derek. Still seated in his car, he holds court. He might surf later, he might not, it doesn’t matter. Derek is killing it.

Stopping only to bump fists with Derek and a few others before making his way down the beach and into the line up, is Erickson, The Viking

Erickson is an absolute mountain of a man. It is impossible to imagine where he finds a wet suit big enough to cover his gigantic frame, not to mention how he gets it on or off. He rides an 8-foot, “short board” with 3-inch thick rails. When he makes his initial bottom turn, it is hard to tell if he’s soul arching or just trying not to tip over, but once he gets his considerable weight centered under him, his power and precision align and he roars over wave faces. Erickson’s hands are thick and heavy. I know this because he once took a swing at me. I was still a grom and had gotten perhaps a little too comfortable with my emerging station in the line up. A set came and he and I were the only two people anywhere near it. It seemed like he had no interest in it, for whatever reason. He just sat there on his board, about 10 feet outside of me, looking off into the distance. Assuming he was going to pass, I paddled around him in pursuit of the wave. It was a really nice peak, to me an obvious right-hander and I wanted it. Suddenly Erickson, having decided he liked the look of it too, and further deciding that it was a better looking left than a right, swung around and started to paddle. We were going to be on a collision course for one another, him going left, and me going right. Huge, Viking Erickson stood up, and in one motion took off and threw a left-hook at my face as he set his rail and began steam rolling his way down the line. Fortunately for me, the punch did not land. I still remember the wind that his fist created as it passed, just an inch or so from my nose. I knew immediately that I was in the wrong. Erickson was the man. He’d surfed out there forever, he was highly competent, he was respected and the rules are the rules. You don’t just paddle around a guy like that, ever. Later, in the parking lot, I humbly apologized to him. I said, I should never have paddled around him. “Fucking right you little shit!” he said with just a tiny bit of a smile. Apology accepted, thank God. Not long after that incident however, Erickson began calling me into waves. First, by simply nodding, ever so subtly in my direction, when a set came to him, as if to say, “OK kid, you can have this one, don’t fuck it up.” Eventually, and audibly, he’d actually tell me to “Go!” with what felt like a hint of enthusiasm in his voice. This was it, I had been knighted. Or at least acknowledged. I was triumphant.

As the day’s warm morning turns to a hot afternoon the rotation of surfs, hangs and surf-agains keep moving in and out, with the changing of the tide. A familiar, tribal hum of voices, activity and rituals is beginning to fill the air. Jackson Jenkins is telling stories about his time on Maui—how it was he who first taught Laird and others to windsurf, and about a monster day he had out at some unnamed outer reef. And his favorite—how Simon Anderson actually stole the idea for the thruster from him. Jack never stops talking, in or out of the water, but everyone makes time for him.

Across the lot I see Colleen, the artist. Colleen is 110% local, but she doesn’t spend any more time than necessary at the beach. She arrives, suits up, surfs brilliantly, and leaves. “Too much mansplaining and jerking off around that damned picnic table for me to want to hang around,” she once told me. Colleen is fierce. Colleen was one of the first surfers I became aware of who wanted little or nothing to do with mainstream, pop-surf culture, and at the time that broadened my horizons considerably. She was more East Village than SoCal. She wore black work boots and overalls, not flip flops and bikinis. To this day I still have a respectful crush on Colleen. Not because of her considerable good looks but because of her presence, her style, and her strength. She is extremely well-respected and gets her waves. No one reads the lineup better than Colleen, and her high lines and swooping arcs are my love language.

The waves are great all day. There are peaks up and down the beach, but the sandbar out in front of the picnic table at the end of the road is absolutely firing. Around the table, the crew is now framed by the broader swath of humanity that comprise weekend beach goer types. They are out in droves on this rare, warm day. Low-riders, chopped bikes, and base thumping rice rockets fill in the remaining parking spaces alongside preppy, multi-family minivans and newly minted techies. The gang bangers, the bros, the bongo players, hippies and sun tanners, the kids, the dogs, the entire world is out at the beach today. At the far end of the beach access road the playful mood is still a bit tenuous however. Someone could look at someone the wrong way.  Somebody burns somebody, and it’s on. Down here, the characters, the criminals, the screech of burning rubber, rogue waves, and the dreaded undertow will all serve to keep today’s harmony in check . The scene can still be a bit dangerous, and the crew is still close knit, protective and quirky. And I hope it never changes.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: while based on personal experiences, this essay is largely fictionalized.

What Kevin Is Stoked On!

In The Surf Community:

Some friends and I opened a pop-up art gallery called Warm. We’ve had a blast and had great collaborators while meeting lots of new people. On May 11th, we will have an opening party for our next show which we are really stoked on. In addition to myself, we’ll have works by:

Adam Warmington

Alrik Yuill

Amanda Sheeren

Doug Walker / Lost & Found

Jhaya Warmington

Nick Lawrence

It’s going to be rowdy!


In Thoughts And Quotes:

“I can’t go on; I’ll go on”

— Samuel Beckett

This really summarizes the characters I often draw and their emotional state as they take in the world around them.

In The Faro Workshop:

The FARO Wave Sliders Journal!


Follow Kevin on IG: @kevin_mirsky

Thanks for reading, ya'll! Look out for the next WAVE SLIDERS JOURNAL coming soon.

- Jack