Carcavelos Browns


15 Jul Carcavelos Browns


Carcavelos Browns was written in 1993, and published in Wavelength magazine [ UK _ 1994 ] and by Surfer magazine [ USA _ 2000 ].

I’m deaf now.

Completely deaf.

Except for the sounds

of my jaws chomping

when I eat and the sound

of my bones creaking

when I walk.

And sometimes I hear

a disturbing jingle-jangle

of something metallic.

I’m not sure what…

the coins in my pocket ?

or the BB’s in my brain?


Earlier today,

I was almost hit by a car.

Same as yesterday.

And the day before.

I’ve changed my mind

about liking silent movies.

I hate them now.


I’d once asked a deaf woman,

what it was like

to live in a silent movie

her whole life.

She said she liked it,

you didn’t have to

listen to people’s bullshit.

I realized now, that I really enjoyed

listening to people’s bullshit.


My Shangri-la has betrayed me.

My Utopia is brown not green.

My first impression of paradise

was an illusion created by a photographer,

a journalist and a world famous surfer.

Green Beach is the Portuguese Pipeline !

the article had shouted at me

with text and photos.


That was just twelve years ago,

a first and lasting image;

big, perfect super-green tubes.

Those solitary impressions

marinating around in my brain all this time,

had recently led me to make one of the most

drastic changes in my entire life.


The trans-Atlantic move to a town near

those picture-perfect green barrels.


But when I finally arrived

to my dream beach,

I made a sickening discovery.

Although the waves were

just as big, perfect and hollow

as the article had bragged,

the water was dark brown

(not bright green)

and it smelled like shit.

Because it was shit-

mostly raw sewage,

but also;

mud, oil, detergents, plastics, etc…

all whipped together

by the frequent swells

into a kind of bacteria cocktail.

I vowed never to surf there.


Never to even look at the place.


Instead, I began surfing

the less dramatic and less polluted breaks

north of Carcavelos along the Estoril coast.

But the waves along this stretch

of reefs and coves were generally

inconsistent and powerless.

In the meantime,

the Carcavelos pounders

pounded on and on……

day after day,

moon after moon.


Although I was often tempted,

I never ventured there again

even for a look.

But I knew deep inside

that the powerful tunnels

would eventually

lure me to test my abilities.


Like most riders throughout history,

in my own mind,

I was the best surfer of ALL eternity.

But how many winters

of strength and speed did I have left ?

How many winters

of real waves did I have left?

Ten or fifteen at the most.


No doubt I’d probably

be surfing until the day I died,

but on fat, slow boards

on small, slow waves.

A grandpa with nothing but memories

and an occasional Sunday afternoon surf

on a board big and thick enough

to support a floating hotdog stand.


…And the young punks

(never imagining that they themselves

will someday will be older

than they are

at that moment in time)

will laugh and point

and tell their girlfriends what a kook I am.

Nobody will be there to defend me.

Nobody will be there

to tell the young punks about the day….


A sturdy sixteen year old kid nick-named Granite

was the only person ballsy enough

to surf Resort Point during very biggest swell

California’s famous winter of ’83

(The El Nino year)….


….Or about another day

later in the same winter,

the same kid continued surfing

his home break

even after he’d spotted

the dorsal of a Great White.

But the waves were good,

he had later told the lifeguard

(who’d also spotted the rare visiting shark)

and had pleaded his return to the beach

for more than an hour through his megaphone.


No…the young punks

wouldn’t know about any of that…


…they also wouldn’t know

about the day years later

when Granite had encountered the legendary,

Kalani Jones

in a Kawaii convenience store.


And had later been invited

to surf a private reef break,

a sacred Hawaiian secret

with one of the Kahunas himself.

Just two soul kings,

a half a mile from shore

(before the crowded days of jets skis).

Nobody to impress

but themselves and the gods.


No, the young punks

wouldn’t know about any of that…

not any of it.


One morning, I woke up

hours earlier than normal

with an itch,

a kind of nervous tingling

in my bones.

The rain had stopped,

the sun was shining,

the clothes pins

on the laundry line

outside of my window

were slapping the panes

(this only occurred during an east wind).

I knew what it all meant,

especially the nervousness

inside my bones.

It meant WAVES.


I don’t know why.

I don’t know how

(With no surf reports

in the area existing

at that time to

aid my delusion..).

But with almost

one hundred-percent accuracy,

as if spiritually linked

with the almighty Neptune,

this strange fearful confusion

I sometimes felt

meant that the day, THIS day,

would be one of the few

in three-hundred and sixty-five

that the ocean would rebel;

sink ships, destroy houses, claim lives.


Although I was about to head

straight to the station

to catch a twenty-five minute express train

out to the coast,

I took a cold shower

to regain consciousness,

brushed my teeth.

and put a new leash on Olga.

She was beautiful,

a thin, plain-white 7’10” thruster pin

shaped by Almir Salazar.

A bigger, sleek board

for bigger, hollow waves.

Although it was nearly six months old

I’d only ridden it a couple of times before

(basically just to try it out),

it still looked and smelled new.

The fiber-glass still crack free and un-dented.


The train raced

alongside of the Rio Tejo,

out toward sea

and before we had

even reached the estuary

I could already see

huge rows of whitewater

foaming up the mouth of the river.

The fort-island

was being bombarded

as was the super-tanker

that was attempting to maneuver itself

into the channel and up river.


East wind.


Deep cobalt-blue sky.

Under other circumstances

It could’ve been an ideal day

for a picnic.


I got off the train at Carcavelos station,

bought a coffee and a chocolate milk

and walked a quarter of a mile

through a still-sleeping suburban neighborhood

until I reached the beach.


Big walls of dark brown water

marched methodically toward shore.

And one after another

they exploded on the shallow

outside sandbar.

The east wind whistled,

suspending their lips mid-air

forming completely round,

mud-colored tunnels,

often blasting clouds of mist

out their side doors.

Water color aside ,

It was an incredible sight.


but absolutely perfect.


Took my time

getting into the water;

studied breaking patterns

and currents,

inched my wetsuit on,

combed my wax to perfection,

and finally waded waist-deep

into the churning browness.

I began paddling.



It smelled d i s g u s t i n g.

Pollution so severe that

the water-density itself was different.

Less like water, more like soup.

Cream of Hepatitis soup.


Soon I was making my way through

the foaming rows of muck,

(leftovers of waves that had already

expended themselves on the outside bank).

But the bubbles of foam weren’t

of the everyday pea and cherry-sized variety,

some were size of grapefruits

and didn’t immediately pop

after a wave had passed,

possessing all the unique durabilities

that result from the random mixing

of piss, shit, gasoline,

oil, detergents, river mud

AND diluted blood

from a neighborhood slaughterhouse

that frequently took advantage

of the rainy season

to dispose of by-product waste

directly into the sewer system.


It took me forty-five minutes

just to paddle beyond

the endless walls of foam

and into the impact zone

where waves twelve and even fifteen feet

on the face where mercilessly slamming

into the sandbar, just

five feet below the surface.


I felt nauseated,

not only from the pollution,

but from motion sickness.

The swells were rising and falling,

lifting and dropping me

every several seconds.

But none of the waves

seemed approachable,

out-of -control,

with no obvious take-off spots.


I’d been paddling and bobbing

around out there

about an hour and a half

before IT finally came.

It appeared slower than the others

because it was much larger.

Its rise was a steady one, not as jumpy.


By luck, I was in perfect position.

I simply turned around, paddled twice

and slid in.

But suddenly

like a sledge hammer cracking a skull,

the wave hit the shallowest part of the sandbar,

completely concaving from lip to trough

And there I was,

in position for the biggest, best,

shit-brown tube ride of my entire life.

Crouching into an iron-legged hell-stance,

it PITCHED…swallowing me whole

like an aspirin tablet.

Dark in there,

no natural light

coming through the back of the lip,

just smelly opaqueness.


I aimed at the only route of exit,

the small golden light

at the end of the Hershey Highway.

But as it grew closer,

thousands of big, toxic bubbles

came floating up the wave’s face and into my path,

and for a millisecond

my fins lost traction.

Recovered my balance,

but the slide had cost valuable distance

and I was now too deep

to leave the shit tunnel graciously

No choice but to go down with the ship.


The glimmer of illumination

at the end of the colon

flickered, then faded completely.

And in pitch-blackness,

I was hurdled directly

into the calderon

just to get sucked over with the lip

and then obliterated in the impact zone.

The full weight of the wave

compacting directly onto on me.

Eyes closed, I was tossed around and around and around,

upside down in the Devil’s soup bowl

repetitively getting bounced

off the hard-packed sand bank.


Finally I was released from the force,

But where was I ?

Somewhere suspended in the sludge.

Like an idiot, I opened my eyes.

Burning blackness.

Dizzy and panicked, I swam and swam

and swam into nothingness…

finally switched course forty-five degrees,

and banged my head on the bottom

(I’d been swimming horizontally).


Pushing off with my legs,

I instantly surfaced thru

an eighteen-inch thick layer

of freshly blended

sewage-smoothie bubbles.

Gasping for a solid breath of air

I chocked on one and immediately vomited.


Defeated, and exhausted,

I swam for shore.

Olga was long gone,

already waiting for me

on the beach like a loyal dog

amongst a pile

of river garbage and tree branches.

But, except for the broken leash,

no damage done.


I walked up the beach and across the highway

to one of those quiet suburban houses,

turned on a garden hose

and rinsed off the shit and slime.

Changed back into my street clothes,

walked back to the station

and caught the train back to Lisbon,

got off at the last stop

and walked up the hill

toward Bairro Alto;

past bakeries, flower shops, shoe-shiners,

sailors, winos, dusty old hookers, drug dealers,

past the post office at Praca de Camoes.

Past the Brazilian Consulate,

up Rua da Atalaia and into my front door.


Two days later my ears began to hurt.

Two days after that I was deaf.

Stone deaf.

The star of my own silent movie.



It was three-months

and two surgeries later when

(less than half of)

my hearing was finally restored.

An already advanced

case of Exostosis combined

with severe double ear infections,

left one of my eardrums

rotten beyond repair,

described by my surgeon,

as fragile as a burnt curtain.

I eventually re-operated with one of the best

specialists in the US…and even he couldn’t

do much for me.

Carcavelos Browns written in 1993 was published



This was 1993,

and only two years later,

with newly received funds

from the European Union

the municipality of Caiscais County

did a MAJOR upgrade

on the sewer system

on this part of the coast.

It ain’t perfect,

but it’s a massive improvement.

The days of this kind of pollution

are long gone ..hopefully for good.


But the young punks

won’t know about any of this.

They’ll think Carcavelos

was always just the way it is now

bright and gleaming with green water.

And on warm winter Sundays…

(never imagining that

they’ll ever grow a day older

than they are at that moment) …

…they’ll laugh

and tell their girlfriends

to check out

the kook with

the big thick board and

the waterproof hearing aid (me).

No Comments

Post A Comment