Monday, August 13, 2007

Silver lining on a toxic fair

The Ventura Fair has ended. In the past, I've always villified this event because of it appearing to be a slight against surfers or anyone else who wanted to enjoy Surfer's Point. Due to the number of folks who attend the fair each year, access is relegated to one road and many of Ventura's roads are closed off, turned into one ways, and traffic is concentrated into long meaningless detours. The road to The Point and the fairgrounds starts on 101's California St. exit and traffic tends to be pretty heavy leading to a great deal of unnecessary pollution. To top it off, it seems the many toxic fallouts encompass the health of those foolish enough to eat the food there. Even though the fairgrounds have been located across from Surfer's Point for 50 years now, the waves have been breaking there quite a bit longer. So when the fair rolls in to town and sets up their outdated rides and saturated fat stands, it has always been a harbinger for me to shake my head in disgust. But, no more. I have found the silver lining and it is the fact that there are a fraction of the amount of surfers out there on C-Street because most go else where or not at all.

This year, Ventura Surf Shop gets the Bardo Surfer Surf Shop Award because they do not try to make a buck off their parking lot as most businesses do (including the other surf shop located a few buildings down). Ventura Surf Shop remains true and fair to the surfers. They only allow customers and surfers to park and this is just what I did. The 500 m walk to the ocean became a pleasure. I felt gratitude to my fave surf shop and I enjoyed the walk knowing that there'd only be a handful of surfers out there. Along the walk, I'd walk by cars all lined up, engines running, waiting for their chance to park in the giant fairgrounds parking lot. Every time I passed the police at one of their road blocks, they'd have a stereo with Pink Floyd setting a surreal tone.

Today was my sixth or seventh day in a row. I'd gone up the coast a few times but the swell tends to catch on the point in a favorable way and so I kept coming back despite the extra walk. But there was no walk today, the fair ended on Sunday. Arriving at the Point, I was happy to see Caveman sitting on the narrow strip of grass which borders the parking lot and the boardwalk. He put his hand out and I shook it. He pointed to his boat, a couple hundred yards off the coast and invited me to paddle out to it. I agree.

I'm out there in the waves, catch a few and then comes Caveman, paddling by with a pack on his back filled with water jugs. I ride another wave and then paddle out behind him and then pass him. I climb up the ladder and attach my surfboard leash to his railing. Zac paddles out on his longboard. Standing on the prow, I stare at the shore, can just make out the other surfers, beachgoers and a brown plume of smoke rising over the hills just on the edge of Ventura County. The sailboat rocks in the sea. Cave shares some stories, plays the flute and talks about sailing out to the Channel Islands. He says that it is going to be breaking big there and he'll be going there in a couple nights. He explains how you cannot sleep in your boat while in harbors now unless the ship is 35 feet long. "I'm screwed," he says. It does not surprise me too much. The walls seem to be closing in everywhere. An endless trend to destroy the wilderness of the earth and the wildness in people.

Zac and I jump back in the water, free our boards and make the paddle back to shore. I catch some more waves and then I am back on land.

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