Lighthouse Point


There’s lots of monuments that represent Santa Cruz, like the Boardwalk with its Giant Dipper, or the Municipal Wharf, or even the Harbor. But nothing says Santa Cruz like the lighthouse at Lighthouse Point. Home of the world famous surf break known as Steamer Lane, the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse now contains a surf museum.

DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument

Fearless Youth

We had been sitting there watching the waves for a while. The swell was enormous, way too big to be surfing Willow Creek in my opinion, which was why we were in the van drinking coffee. Each set of waves seemed bigger than the next, and watching the waves unleash their fury on the shore helped us realize how large and powerful the ocean really was, and how tenuous our position on the land. The van shook in the parking lot.

We saw a group of twenty-somethings drive up and get ready to paddle out without looking at the surf for more than a minute, and we got to watch their attempt at taming the angry ocean. They made it out to the lineup okay, and actually caught a couple, but then one of the giant ten wave close-out sets came through, and it basically swept them all down the coast and into the sketchy rocks on the shoreline. One guy’s leash broke and his surfboard (what looked like a brand new Al Merrick –the expensive sports car of surfboards) was battered painfully on the mossy stones. They all made it back to shore safe but shaken, and hobbled back to their car through the cobbles at the water’s edge, carrying their surfboards along with whatever was left of their pride. They then loaded up their stuff and drove back to wherever they had come from, defeated but still alive. One can only hope the experience taught them something.

Then these two old timers rolled up in an classic ragtop sedan. They saw a wave come through and immediately decided to suit up and paddle out without watching it for more than a couple minutes. But by the time they got down to the waterline to launch in the frothing sea, they had witnessed one of those enormous close out sets come through, and wisely decided against paddling out. I thought for sure we would be observing a repeat of the previous beat down, but these wise old carps knew enough to stay out of the water.

So was it wisdom or fear, and are those really the same thing? Maybe it just takes us many trips around the sun to figure out what we should be afraid of. Despite the physical weathering of the body, apparently there are some advantages to aging after all.

And, of course, let us not mention the rushed, nearsighted, and brazen shortcomings of youth.

Willow Creek, Big Sur – old photo, old car, old timer suiting up (by flora-file)

Willow Creek from Highway 1 (by flora-file)

Willow Creek Picnic Ground (by Frank Kehren)

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years

The Long Unspoken

Longboard Larry is a beachfront fixture, as much a landmark on this beach as the lifeguard towers and the old wharf pilings. He shows up every morning with his massive, yellow log of a board, covered in dings and dripping water like a soaked towel. He hikes it down the beach to his spot not saying a word to anybody, limping and dragging the massive board along with his gimpy leg, the hypnotic rhythm of his lurch inducing stares and winces. Something happened to him in Nam, at least that’s the rumor, and it wasn’t just his leg. But no one knows for sure what triggered his silent limp, except maybe Larry, and even that is up for debate.

Even though he is always there on the beach, Longboard Larry isn’t all there. You can tell if you ever see his eyes. Glacier blue, diffusing the sunlight and twinkling like some sort of christmasy decoration. They point in different directions slightly, and you can never tell where he is looking if he has his sunglasses off. Luckily for most he wears his Oakley blades with the iridescent lenses almost constantly. Those and his dirty old St. Louis Cardinals cap, sun bleached to a pinkish hue. It tops his bald head, smooth as an egg but rimmed with a blonde tangle of hair not unlike a clown. As long as the hat is on he doesn’t look bald at all, but it is rather shocking to catch a glimpse of him without it on, and he even wears it while surfing. He always has the hat and the glasses, and the 99 cent slaps from the corner market, and the same dirty old pair of surf trunks covered in wax and sand. If it’s cold he wraps an oversized beach towel around his tan, leathery shoulders. He rarely bothers with a shirt, even in the gloomiest of fog banks.

Every day Larry comes to the beach and posts up in the same spot most of the day without speaking to anyone. He stares silently at the water like he is searching for something, or waiting for something to rise from the dark, cold ocean. He eventually paddles out and catches a single wave, no matter if the surf is two inches or two feet overhead. And every day he comes in afterward and plops down on the sand and stares at the horizon again, his icy blues burning a hole in the distance from behind his sunglasses. Every day I watch Larry from my lifeguard tower and wonder what he is looking for, if he is hoping to catch a glimpse of whatever he lost in Nam, or if perhaps he is trying to forget something that he wishes could be lost.

I tell myself someday I will get up the courage to talk to him, to ask him what had really happened to his leg, and ask him what he is looking for when he stares into the distance with his thirsty and unspoken longing. But usually I am too busy watching the tourists and valleys and other transplanted visitors trampling through the sand and leaving their trash behind, overly concerned with the safety of people I don’t really care for, people I struggle to not feel contempt for. 

But that is another story.

Surf Ready (by snedegar3)

DP Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence

Mexico 911

Saturday ~ September 1, 2001

Donny and Eric meet us at the airport in Zihaut. They have already been in Mexico a week and have lined up everything, including a taxi with a cargo rack on the roof. Brad and I attach our board bags with twine and nylon and we make the hour or so drive to Nexpa. The surf is flat when we arrive, but the beer is almost cold.

Sunday ~ 9/2

The point is too small, so we hike down the beach and wade across the rivermouth. We find some nice sand bars around the corner, and waves just big enough to ride. After about two and a half waves I brush against something as I’m paddling and feel the sting throttling my fingers. Soon others are stung and we realize there is a massive flotilla of jellies overwhelming the beach.  We drift back to shore carefully, trying to paddle without touching the water. The locals call the jellyfish the agua mala, and say sometimes it lasts for a week or more.

Tuesday ~ 9/4

The agua mala has subsided, but so has the surf. We walk down the beach again in search of waves but find the ocean barely licking the shore. Returning to the palapas we pass a couple jeep loads of policia taking lunch break near the rivermouth. They watch us suspiciously as we hike past, standing with weapons slung around their shoulders. Most look about 18 years old. They take turns firing their large military rifles into the river.

The pounding of the waves wakes me up sometime during the night, a much more comforting explosion than gunfire. (more…)