I believe last year I meekly described attempting to 'plug back in' to the real world life after the annual Big Sur dive trip. This year there will be no such attempt. Daily life and real life are one and the same. The daily lives of dolphin and whales, for example, as observed from a high promontory overlooking Limekiln Beach in May, or of massive schools of rockfish, as observed 40 feet down near the outpoor of Plaskett creek, are as real as my daily life at this desk, realer perhaps. And when chance favors you to meet people in these wilder places and share what can be shared, part of the appreciation for that place is the spirit and candor engendered within us, and the generosity born of others or for others, which must not be let go, for it is then and there as real as it gets. I am thankful for the opportunity to post these photos from such brilliant story tellers as Keenan and McD, who along with some newbs (one for Big sur, one for the Earth), rounded out the old team that plunged into the sea each day for a week, much to the chagrin of many a hiding Cabezon, to harvest for table and soul.
What's up? It has been quite a long time since the my last post that's what's up. I must have... Did I drift off? I did didn't I. Balderdash. Not my fault. Nothing is f*cked here dude. It's perfectly normal delinquent behavior. It's summer, the end all be all cause of delinquent activity. I caught it. Came down with it. Be warned. It's as contagious as it is deadly. It's a time of South swells and scorching afternoons that linger and yawn into just becoming mornings again, to the point of azure exhaustion. It's the dreamlike lull in responsibilities for the teacher and student, vacations for the parents, an opportunity to make time to travel, read up, write down, seek out, or for some... do nothing. We grow up, we walk different paths, sit in different chairs, climb different ladders, yet these things remain the same. Summer is... well. I know you know what I know I think you know. Summer will always make me feel like a kid. F*ck it, let's go diving.
This summer of twenty aught thirteen started out great, with the annual Big Sur send off of Spring in May. It was terrible. Simply diminishing. You should never go.
Then there was an actual cause for celebration, the reason being a person who looked sort of like me actually pulled off a successful booth at the Treasure Island Flea Market at the end of that month. That person was also very grateful to those who came out and supported his two day rebellion against the weekend, especially to those who nourished the worker bee with cold beers. That they did not recognize the person they had come to reinforce was understandably awkward. To some, he remains just too ninja.
The dog of course, benefiting from his olfactory prowess, smelled out the real slim shady and blew his cover. And by 'successful' (paragraph 3, line 2, above) I mean to say it was really cool to see so many people who were so appreciative of all the imagination, time and effort it took to conceive and construct the teepee, or as one weirdo put it, 'conical tent' style stands for the frames. I think they liked the gyotakus too, but not enough, evidently. I can't say the same for the trellises, however, which garnished more than one bargain minded inquiry,which, in hindsight, given it was a flea market and nobody wanted to spend a lot, the average flea buyer willing to part with 'maybe $20', I probably should have entertained. IDIOT.
Back to the real business at hand. Yes. Summer. Summer is abalone season. Summer is Ab's for days. ZUES's BEARD are they tasty. Scrumtrulescent little snails they are. And yet, I'm not French, and some of them are not small. This one here was a hefty 10 pounds and nearly, oh so very nearly, 10" in diameter. OH ODEN'S RAVEN SO CLOSE! I'm still waiting for that elusive ten. Oh how I will boast to maybe five people about how lucky I got. By the way did you see the photo at the top of this post? That there represents one of the first ever Fishtaku transactions, and it is truly awesome to see it displayed so bodaciously on the wall of my great friend Cat's kiddies' rec room. Cath you rock!!!!!
Summer is also that time of the year when swells seem to cease altogether interminably. These long periods of 'lake' are basically 'dreamweeks' for us divers as we are privileged for that time to experience the ocean when she is grooving at her very mellowest. With only the abundance and sheer magnitude of the kelp to hinder fins and catch on to the occasional weight belt, its been the perfect summer to blood a few newbies to the fold. These two finely dressed individuals are Ruth and Jun. And like a proud father I'm glad to announce that Jun now has the bug!
Ah, summer. Look at that lake. This is a spot called 'Lobos Rocks'. The resident Sea Lion chorus on the outer rock hunts the deeper kelp bed and the sandy troughs around it every morning and evening, dolphin pass by the edge of the kelp frequently and who knows what else. Oily poison oak and dicey scrambles to the water's edge serve only as punctuation to yet another epic poem, the author being of course none other than the one and only, Big Sur.
Ok, yes that was corny. Back to business and good business is good book keeping. To the left is the last photo taken with GoPro3 #1... It is Eric (insert nickname you like best) D, preparing to don his telltale electric blue garden gloves prior to entering the water on a fogtastic morning in Sonoma (I'll never tell where). Two weeks after this picture was taken, I returned to this very same spot in the hopes of repeating what had been an epic dive. It could have gone worse, but not by much. [*pause* - Author takes long drink from beer glass and sighs as if the recollection he is about to dial up for you causes him to feel something terrible - then he resumes.] The sea was a raging bull in a china shop full of swaying kelp and muddy water that day. Guns, gauges, irons, watches, you name it, everything that could be dropped was dropped, some things more than once. Every diver in the sizable group that day got sick, myself on several occasions. On my way in, after nearly two hundred and forty minutes in the water, sixty of which I probably spent holding my breath and at least ten violently nauseated, the ocean saw fit to eject me with a final volley of 8 footers which rag-dolled me into the rocks, spilling the nearly $600 dollars worth of camera equipment that was on my head into the sea, along with what was left of my courage. An earnest search began immediately, but the search party, exhausted and ill, was in no shape to battle the wavy torrent of the shallows, the effort aborted after a quarter of an hour lest the recovers become the objects of recovery themselves.
But, alas, not all was lost. That very day I dropped into the murk to discover the amazingly burly abalone (9.8") I showed you earlier. Suffice it to say, the sashimi that night was amazing. Not sure if it was worth $600, but paired with fried Lingcod, black rockfish, and fried abalone for entrees.. no complaints here.
I've just come back from a week long camping trip to Big Sur. It was epic. We went diving every day to six different spots, four of which we had never been. The ocean was calm and the weather was as good as it gets.
I've returned to the world of hot showers, comfy couches, and meals that I don't have to prepare from scratch and clean up thoroughly thereafter. My initial thoughts....
I'm sitting in my office right now surrounded by taupe colored walls and paneled ceilings emitting artificial sounding noises typical of tubular light bulbs and industrial sized air vents. My phone has 11 missed calls and 9 messages. On one of my screens I see an inbox of 645 e-mails, on another I have the surfline forecast for Big Sur, 2-3 ft this morning, steadily rising to 7-8ft on Wednesday, down and up again come Saturday. My brain processes none of this.
Detached and a bit uneasy, I casually get up and walk to a friend's desk, one whom minutes are routinely wasted per day regaling adventures and fish stories, to ease my mind. I smile, the bank of new tales to tell entering my thoughts as I round the corner, but she's gone. She's moved to Houston. What to do...
I walk outside, maybe the fresh air is what I need. I've been in the office for less than 2 hours and already I feel like Phillip in a surgy kelp bed, but upon exiting the office doors I'm greeted by red lights flashing and the sound of a train, construction on the parking garage next door and the deadening hardness of concrete.
Where are the birds, the sounds of the woods and the waves? The part of me that was asleep and then awakened can not fathom my choice to return to this, existence. There is a line 10 deep of ordinary looking folks at Pete's, I could join them, perhaps be warmly welcomed by a barista back into the real world. Or I could walk across the street and get a delicious burrito bowl full of Chipotle's version of 'adobo' chicken, even still I could walk a bit further and get a $25 foot massage while I catch up on Chinese television. The possibilities are endless, and suffocating. Are we insane? The wholesome spirit of the natural world that has fed me for a week is completely gone, replaced by... this.
Give me dust, dirt, rain, mud, racoons that can open coolers and squirrels that treat us like stupid tourists. Give me bluebird wake ups and unidentified rustlings in the leaves, wind in the branches and popping fires.
I feel good again. I left a thumbdrive in the car and when I opened the door to retrieve it I was hit with the smells of another epic trip. Campfire, smoke, dirt, fish, salt, beach. The smells are as good and clean as any in this brightly lit and freshly washed place. I am thankful for the smells, reminders of the people, the food, and the times. I am thankful for the magnitude of Big Sur and how it changes me. I am thankful for the ocean and the cliffs and the coastal forests. The diving was incredible. I scare to think of letting this spirit that has stirred lie dormant for another year. Hopefully I can fill it with weekend excursions, while I wait to do this again for days and days.
This Winter has been blessed with great conditions and great diving. Gray whales. My first vermillion. A personal best Monkeyface Prickleback. Surfers riding through sets as our fins disappear beneath them. Here are just a few random clips caught with a GoPro Hero3 camera. Enjoy!
Every now and then I get the real privilege to dive with a master, who between studying waves and the intricacies of torts and criminal procedure, spends his time weaving through city traffic on his bike, cooking up feasts with his wife Helen, and foraging for mussels, crabs, and dive bars throughout San Francisco's outside lands. Living within earshot of OB, he is lover of all things ocean, a waterman through and through. Being as enthralled as I am with diving now, I can't thank enough the guy that got me started in the first place. So on one sunny February Friday afternoon the decision was easy, "I'll drive," I said.
We were greeted in Central California by calm swells and a partially sunny sky that seemed to be stubbornly fighting off a fog blowing in from the Pacific. Suiting up quickly, however, we were in the water just minutes before the sun disappeared behind the quickly advancing fog bank. With visibility a little discouraged by the obstinate weather, we nevertheless pressed on, it would take much much more for it to do the same to our spirits.
"Well worth it."
Having not had a dive in months, Eric was stoked beyond words to get out into the kelp forest. His last dive had been at the end of the summer, when the water can sometimes be more akin to 'egg drop soup' than anything else, and he had yet to experience the winter visibility we had been raving about. It was great to see him out there, checking every hole like a kid, in what seemed like a hazy 20-30 ft of visibility.
Eric checks a small cave for big dogs
It turned out to be a great day, complete with visits from Monterey's resident mammalian wildlife in the form of a seal I've come to recognize (and dub) due to his distinctive white coloring. The afternoon was packed with action, fish everywhere, and both Eric and I hauled out with impressive stringers.
At one point during the dive we stopped looking in the holes because it seemed like every fish and its mother was out and about.
Eric, without letting a single bubble escape, surveys the bottom topography for likely hiding places
A world class swimmer and schooled in free diving the waters off Hawaii and now California, Eric's technique and knowledge are rewarding even to those just watching his controlled, seemingly effortless dives. His boundless enthusiasm is also contagious, and just the experience of diving with him is a privilege. Sup Yoda. "Try not, do or do not."