Epic quest still on track.
The monsoon hit an hour outside of Phoenix and I thought, “Well hell.” Thick black clouds, bubbling and boiling, had been haunting the sky for some time and, while I know the southwestern American desert is partial to summer squalls, didn’t imagine the possibility of driving into the teeth of one.
My reaction, of course, should have been positive, witnessing the glory of nature, the striking contrast of dry versus wet, dripping cacti etc. but had tried to wipe bug guts off the windshield just after the sun had poked over the horizon near The Center of the World and realized the wipers on my very talented daughter’s 2011 Volkswagen Jetta wagon were broken.
And, so, when the sky finally broke I was officially driving blind.
“Is this how it all ends?” I wondered. “A decorated surf journalist on an epic quest to find the mythical non-surfing World Surf League fans who must certainly be sprouting up all over this great land dead in a ditch?”
My phone vibrated wildly in the cup holder with an emergency alert.
National Weather Service: A FLASH FLOOD WARNING is in effect for this area until 11:30 AM MST. This is a dangerous and life-threatening situation. Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order.
But also, are Surfline and the National Weather Service one and the same?
No time to ponder that. I was not to be undone by accuracy nor hyperbole and, since I couldn’t see a thing, let the Volkswagen drive where it wanted while focusing my mind on the task at hand.
Now, the southwestern American desert, currently deadly, is also home to many First Nations’ tribes. Those here long before Col. Haole stepped foot on the sacred soil and I wondered if many of them, if not most, had recently discovered competitive professional surfing and follow rabidly.
The World Surf League, you see, has pivoted hard progressive over the past few seasons and passively celebrates “Indigenous People’s Day,” does aboriginal face paintings before competitions at Bells Beach, I think maybe Jeffreys Bay too, and otherwise performatively activisms better than the National Football League (which had the “Redskins” as a team until months ago), Major League Baseball (where “Chief Wahoo” adorned Cleveland Indian hats until months ago), lacrosse (blatantly stolen from Native Americans though played exclusively by rich Ivy League brats) etc.
The WSL stands in alliance.
And so I stopped at a gas station and moccasin shop near the Fort Apache Reservation once the torrent ceased, still alive, marched in, bought a Red Bull and asked the kindly man behind the counter, “Excuse me, sir, do you follow the World Surf League?”
He studied me while answering, “World Surf what?”
“League,” I responded.
“What is that?” he asked.
“The home of competitive professional surfing,” I said.
“That exists?” he wrinkled his nose.
“Yes,” I nodded.
“No. I’ve never heard of it.”
Bent but not broken, I shuffled through puddles back to the car and kept driving, kept stopping at various gas stations and moccasin shops, kept receiving variations on the same answer.
The rain had stopped by the time I neared Albuquerque and bolts of lightning flashed across the heavens creating a dynamic tableau. I decided to give the day one last shot at a New Mexican restaurant serving traditional roasted green chiles and other items featuring roasted green chiles.
After ordering a hamburger with roasted green chiles, the waiter, a kindly man belonging to the Cochiti band, threw me a shaka.
Here it was.
When he returned, I was beside myself with anticipation, almost falling off my Naugahyde bench.
“Excuse me, sir, do you follow the World Surf League?”
“I have no idea what that is,” he replied.
“It is the home of competitive professional surfing and is for you and by you,” I told him before clarifying, “or not for you or by you but with you on social media.”
“Hmmm,” he hmmm’d.
I followed up with, “Are you aware of any competitive professional surfers?”
He thought for a minute then said, “I suppose the ones they show on ESPN.”
Getting somewhere now, I pressed, “Do you know any of their names?”
I could almost hear those sweetest of words Kelly and Slater but no. He thought a bit more then answered, “That one who got her arm bit off by a shark.”
Not exactly what I was looking for but a start. Epic quest still very much on track. The myth drawing closer. Plus, Albuqurque is famous for methamphetamine and, well, you know.
More as the story develops.