Don’t Tell Belton
The guard at the main gate says ‘I know what you are going to do, get out of here!’, we drive away laughing and I watch him smiling in the side view mirror signaling us with a hand wave and a compensatory head shake.

We order a sandwich at Subway, eat ½, get to the launch zone and walk the ramp. The sand is a wet line that recoiled so far out I was thinking of a plan B. The stub end of concrete dropped off and yielded an incomplete access. Sand had built up on the south side. I told Kim we would pit in there. It was not favorable. I knew we had to get this monster trailer in and off load the boats fast to relieve the weight. Basically I was going to sink my trailer and it would be in deep water. Could I get it out? I didn't know really and I wanted to find out. And that’s pretty much what happened, a little 4x4 boost and some burnt rubber, the trailer was dragged back on a tack hard deck. I knew the tide was coming up, that was going to be in our favor later, because this was not doable now.

I opened up the back of my truck. Kim Bushong peered in. I told him, ‘Don’t tell Belton’. I giggled, he laughed. You see Belton is the crew chief of dreams. Precise and orderly, he follows through to the truest of endings. My ending looked like a train wreck. I grabbed gear and began sizing up for our training session. Belton was the main topic for a spell, as we marveled at his 110 hour engine that was showroom quality. Belton’s discards are truthfully upgrades. “Don’t ever let Belton take a stab under my engine compartment’, I stammered, we laughed because we respect Belton. He is the one to look to for pre and post operations checks. This came about because I had a case of the wrong spark plugs for my boats and was unable to change out a set today. How many years have I been doing this? Just don’t tell Belton. Oh yeah and I do use a stock tool kit, you know the little rusty ones under the riding seat? Sorry Bushong!

I texted ‘Ski’, our joint training was to begin at 2PM, he was on a jump and they should be done by 1:30, should be hearing a ‘head’s up’ from him shortly. RXTUSMC bugged out had an unexpected vehicle to manage; we were going to miss him. Ski sends a text….’sorry we’re hitting a second jump, packing parachute again’. A Text to Sgt. B, he’s ‘in Area 41 training no go’ for today. We’ll pick it up again later this week. That’s reality in a world of warriors, days are ending on the next beginning, there are no broken promises, there are just measures to administer and complete. We will muster accordingly, just different a weather slot.

We hit subway. Time to eat as much as possible. We launch into the sink sand spit I chose as the best route to dump our boats. I liked the cozy atmosphere of being a rogue dog on the ocean and just making things happen on our own time. We pass through the jaws of the harbor mouth and head north on the Pacific Ocean. Tracing the fringe of the continent we live on, the surf is slightly yawning. Nice crisp small head high waves, gentle, consistent and dubious thumps on occasion made the inshore area a treat.

The sun is shining with that brilliant expectation that hovers with glee after a steady storm just dumped energy in all directions, splayed like a whirlwind, this blue sky was inviting. The ocean was not asleep the dormancy of the past two months was yielding a rolling cross hatch with glass swaggers and chippity flak that issued forth some flecks of irritation that translated into some downright hard hits on the PWC.

We picked up the pace on this inside of the surfzone. The impact zone is a great training area if you know what you are doing and respectful of yourself, environment and boat. Our speed was safe and slow, taking waves broadside, giving the helm and confidence boost to both of us, a good training element with great water to work with. I checked Kim every few seconds; he was holding and seemed to be managing the multi tasking required of him. I had spelled out some directions for him, and he naturally adopted them and ran on a level of athletic instinct that is innate to top dawgs such as himself. He’s easy going and tenacious without any draw of unnecessary attention. In my experience these type of riders are students usually are those designed for excellence. He can hold well a rough sea and switch out boat hulls and not fuss. He can go a long distance without complaint or notice outwardly. I heard all the legendary tales of Kim in the Kona Ironman and beyond. I try to visualize the 10 hours of grueling distance and I see why he adapts nicely to the offshore PWC element.

Inshore training is a technical development of confidence of our training principals in water rescue, now for our type of training I tell Kim we are going to focus on mindset and technical skills, not WOT. We’re going to balance port/starboard and forward body positioning, recovery and helm/hull control. We train in triangular patterns, quick zips an a mix of drills. Our bodies are used to forward and stern lunge movements. Today we focus on mid range to high range recovery and off ‘center’ strength building. Later on our Spec Op’s training takes us to the hidden realm of ‘instinctual riding’ over perception.

I watch Kim score deeply on the inside a breaking wave caressing his port beam. He turns and runs into the flats. He’s doing really well and is tasked to take a challenge, he never complains once. Repeatedly I see the flight response, and as I look back over my right shoulder I smile deeply. His face is serene but stern, eyes are focused, he’s trying to figure out his next tactical move. After a few of these repeats I have a written vision of a description that comes to mind. The measure of every man’s depth of pride, Kim rode that inshore shallow spit with true abandon. I looked back and said ‘training boats’. ‘Skimboard’ challenged the narrows and rode the film of sand and grit running from the devil.

Dead ahead the LCAC leaves the sand berm and plunges into the surf zone. I hail Kim and we watch this hovercraft get its wind shear sorted. Breaking through the shore the plume of mist sifts back 300 yards, the hovercraft straightens out and heads out to sea to a supply ship, makes a pass and disappears into the horizon. We run alongside it for a spell then break into a different canter heading 30 degrees southwest. The sun is chasing low on the horizon as the earth moves opposite it’s set.

We stop often and talk about navigation, not with a GPS. We discuss our bearings, how to chase a swell, run in fog or any other potential needs of self reliance. We run offshore and shut down the Jet Skis. I marvel at the openness and vast expanse. My thoughts always return to Jeremy Hoyland. I spend a few minutes on every ride contemplating our friendship and his life.

We run our last moments in silence, chasing shadows. The beat is a somber one of sensation, feel and intuitive measures. I check Kim and he’s always stable and steady on a sprint run, he holds any account on his trademark smooth style. He’s got one of those forms that looks good. I don’t promise to have such great form, so I truly appreciate the movements of those who harness fluid momentum.

Helicopters pass by from time to time, there is no other vessel traffic say for a Naval ship far away on the cusp of the water line. A dim gray shadow, small in stature but closer inspection would reveal its might. We run back to our launch zone and now there is barely enough water to put the boats back onto the trailer. It’s a fast hot run onto the rails, we pull up topside and flush the boats, store the trailer at the boat basin and eat the other half of our Subway sandwich, which now tasted better than before.

We banter back and forth on our race experiences, with the topic ‘racing ain’t fair’, and so it isn’t but that negative charge is another kind of human challenge that keeps us coming back for more. Our team is passionate, that is a word I give them, real true open water warriors. Each person is a relic in individual form. Getting to know my brothers is a great experience for me, as each of us has our strengths and character that make our team phenomenal.

The moon has crested full on the horizon. The Mark Hahn looms. Our team has made the commitment. They have paid their dues, spent their money, built their boats, coordinated with their engine builders, acquired their annual sponsorships, promoted the events of choice and they ride the ride. The RIDE after the RIDE as my friend Darrick Doerner always tells me.

The talk shop after the ride is the afterburner effect.

We are burning rubber baby up the I-5. Home again, one day closer to the Hahn……300 miles of endurable fun.