Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Danny's Song

I think I had a run-in with Danny Nichols today.

Dan-O, in case you don't know, is the current Overall Men's Champion of the PSTA (or is it PTSA? ...PTA? ...fucking PETA?), which is similar to what used to be called the PSAA...AKA the "Bud Pro Tour" as it became known in the late 80's. Bottom line is that it's the current American pro tour. It's kind of a joke, but it's all we've got.

Anyhow, I'm not positive it was the young Nichols lad, although judging from his attitude, his stocky build, short jerry curl locks, and the fact that he's FROM Huntington, well, I'm pretty sure it was him.

It started like this:

Small, high tide, ankle to chest high, inconsistent day at the pier. Lot of people. Not a lot of waves. Lot of longboarders picking off the sets. Lot of shortboarders sitting inside riding the...well, the insiders.

I pick off a kind of middle wave (I've been marketing high-tech for too long...the term "middleware" just popped into my head), and I'm up and going before it even starts to break. Good day for a longboard...so, uh, I'm on a longboard.

Our chap the champ is inside and starts paddling...as a lot of the little rippers at the pier tend to do. They paddle for EVERYTHING, can seem to catch just about ANYTHING, and will pretty much cut you off unless you scream at them or run them over before they can stand up.

Well, Danny should know better and really doesn't need to be yelled at, so I just kept going, drew a high line...he kept paddling, couldn't really get into it, and I just plowed through him. The tip of his board actually hit me in the shin as I rolled on by.

Kind of hurt.

Whatever. It's HB. It happens every day. Granted, it's usually the beginners who just blindly keep paddling and force you to either put your hand on their shoulder and give them a gentle shove as you cruise by, or take evasive action and either run them over or cut back to avoid the full-on collision.

In this case, I'm guessing that ol' Danny doesn't like giving up waves to longboarders (especially longboarders he doesn't know...although if he was ever in town, he probably would know me).

So I paddle back out, bugged, but am used to this happening enough that I'm pretty much already over it. I paddle right past him, and within a couple of minutes pick off the next one that rolls through.

Up, and there's Daniel-san, on the shoulder again...although this time he's decided he actively doesn't like me and starts doing that sarcastic hooting thing, like, "YEAH!!! YOU RIP...GO, RIPPER, GO!!!" Although he doesn't actually use words, he just hoots as I try to walk the nose and fall.

Now I'm pissed. This is why surfing drives me nuts sometimes. How is it that this guy (who should know better) hits some guy while trying to cut him off, and then becomes so pissed, that he wants to heckle the guy he hit?

I mean, look...I understand fights and yelling sometimes. I really do. Last week during that amazing swell, I saw two guys about to take a set wave on the head as they were paddling out. The guy further out front ditches his board and it almost hits the guy behind him. They get all tangled up, start screaming at each other, it almost goes to blows (funny how it always "almost goes to blows"), and well, you can imagine the rest.

Point is, I get that. Random visitor ditches his board in front of local regular, and the screaming starts. Hey, I'd be pissed too. Granted, I usually take a more condescending "Hey man, you really need to hang on to your board" approach, but whatever.

So here I am, on the most ubiquitous fucking Wednesday morning, surfing tiny, weak waves, just to get wet in between conference calls and meetings, and I'm getting hit...then HECKLED...by the PSTA champ.

Welcome to HB, how the fuck do you do?

And before I can say anything, or "almost go to blows", he's gone. Just disappears.

So, I tried to not let it faze me. I just kept on surfing, enjoying the sunshine, enjoying the crystal clear water, enjoying the occasional waist high peak. But you know how it is...that shit sticks with you. It can ruin an entire session...sometimes your entire day.

Every few minutes I'd even look around...stare at the beach, looking for signs of him walking back up to his car, looking for him southside of the pier, looking north towards the apartments. And it was less that I wanted to get into it with him (although I kind of did, even though we're both about the same size...which is fairly big, and we'd probably do some nice mutual damage), as much as I wanted to figure out what kind of Pro Tour Champ would act like that.

Ten years ago I saw Mike Lambresi out at the Oside jetty. He was the 80's equivalent of Danny-boy. 2 time PSAA Champ...a really good surfer, and a good competitor, but with no real future on the ASP. It was cool though...he was still the Bud Pro Tour Champ and everyone out in the water knew it. It was kind of like having a celebrity out in the water. And he "behaved" like you'd expect the Bud Pro Tour Champ to behave. He smiled, said "what up" to everyone, talked to the few guys he knew, picked off a few set waves, and surfed like a champ.

In short, he was the complete opposite of the little Nichols boy today - grumpy, sour faced, snaking, heckling asshole.

Then again, "Slambresi" was a big time born again Christian. Evangelism is just part of the deal, so they tend to be more talkative than the average guy and are, in general, just pretty damn friendly. And at the same time, the PSAA was a much bigger deal than the PSTA. It was a legit American pro tour and was a real launching pad for the ASP. Shane Beschen, Chris Brown, Chris Frohoff and a whole slew of other pro surfers...who all did reasonably well on the ASP...all got their pro start on the PSAA. So being "the Champ" was a pretty big deal.

And with celebrity...and a certain amount of money...usually comes a slightly different attitude towards other surfers. Rob Machado is NOT going to snake you. And if he does, he'll smile on his way back out and probably let you have the next one.

So, Danny-boy, I'm going to forgive you. I'm going to blame society instead. You compete on a shitty pro tour and no one knows who the hell you are. You're a mediocre pro surfer, with no real future other than as a possible accessory or sunglass rep, and as the 2003 PSTA champ, you probably pulled down about as much as a first year "Manger-in-training" at Enterprise Rent-a-Car.

I'm sorry. Really. It's not your fault. Danny...listen to me. IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT.

It's not your fault.

Now let's hug and see if we can't get you into a few classes at Orange Coast Community College. Who knows, with a few years of hard work, some contest winnings from Bolsa Chica, we might be able to put this PSTA thing behind you and secure you a future you can be proud of.

Who knows, maybe, just maybe, we can get you an interview at Enterprise.

The Colonel says, "Free mid-size upgrade?"