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.
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?
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,
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
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,
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.
was being bombarded
as was the super-tanker
that was attempting to maneuver itself
into the channel and up river.
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
The east wind whistled,
suspending their lips mid-air
forming completely round,
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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) …
and tell their girlfriends
to check out
the kook with
the big thick board and
the waterproof hearing aid (me).