Rincon: A Remembrance of Barrett Crary
by Ron Thompson
"Its right point break has rides that can run 150-200 yards on a good swell. Rights that keep on coming." � California Surfer
Hamilton lived just a few miles from here so it was one of his favorite surf breaks. Surfing was spiritual for him, and the Santa Barbara Coast was his Cathedral. He was at peace in the sea; like nowhere else. His demons, it seems, could not swim. Hamilton could swim like a fish. His six and a half foot frame was slender and adorned with long, taunt muscles that were ideal for paddling. He once made friends with a sea lion at Rincon. It would appear off the front of his board regularly for a year or so. He thought this was his higher power smiling at him. He was more comfortable with aquatic mammals than with the other humans on the beautiful surf break. He called them buoys: inferior surfers who never caught waves. They just bobbed around in the California surf like buoys. Hamilton had left his beloved Pacific Coast in the early 90's to wage a heroic battle. He had long been hopelessly addicted to alcohol and heroin. He thought the isolation of Arkansas and a secure place to stay, with Grandma, a good idea. It was. For the next five years he flourished. He sobered up and became an inspiration for many people. Very many of them were women. It seems Hamilton, a tall good-looking California Boy, was absolutely irresistible to Arkansas Women. He was a man's man too. People were drawn to him because of his laid back charismatic charm. He could bring people together like no other. His recovery, from the darkness of addiction made everyone around him want to do better. By the mid 90's the call of the surf and the Blue Pacific became too strong to resist. He returned to the sea.
The darkness is always there, waiting: patient, cunning, baffling and powerful. It returned to Hamilton slowly. It was the pain in his lower back that deceived him. An addict is capable of actually producing symptoms that require the drug that is sought. His drug of choice, opiate narcotics, was the natural choice for back pain. As the light diminished from his sparkling eyes, no one will ever know just how much of the pain was real and how much was the rapacious darkness returning for its victim.
Hamilton fought the good fight. He hooked up with a new AA sponsor and attempted to submerge himself in the recovery community. But alas, the only peace he could find was in the bosom of Rincon. The weight of his burden was not felt in the water. They could not swim, these demons of darkness. He was lifted into the light by this right-breaking vortex. On the wave, his back was strong his spirit soared. But humans, not even Hamilton can stay on a wave forever. The wave must break and so did Hamilton.
It was a beautiful California morning on the Pacific Coast Highway. Hamilton's brother knew this stretch intimately. Just south of Santa Barbara near a small town called Carpenteria, the Rincon surf was breaking like never before. The spray spiraled upward in a spiritual mist. Earlier that morning Mom had called. She was frantic. No one had seen Hamilton for a week, and they feared the worst. Brother had closed his dive shop in Malibu to make the drive to Santa Barbara to find Hamilton. Just past the sparkling view of Rincon he saw it: a tall shirtless figure walking along side of the highway with a surfboard. He could recognize his brother's silhouette anywhere. He immediately turned his car around and returned to the spot. Nothing! As he continued up the road he saw it again. This time he was sure it was Hamilton. Never had his brother looked so carefree and happy. In his mirror he could see Hamilton descending the path to Rincon. Parking the car quickly, he ran down the path. No Hamilton. Stunned by his vision, Brother continued his journey to Santa Barbara.
Hamilton's back door was locked. He never locked it. The back window was cracked open slightly for the cat. It looked like the cat had not eaten in a week. Immediately Brother knew. Hamilton had lost the battle. He looked peaceful lying there, lifeless in his bed. But this is not the image that Brother will carry. It is the image of Hamilton with his board and a broad smile on the path to Rincon that will live forever in his mind. Did the darkness win? Maybe not. Maybe Rincon will keep Hamilton up in the light forever.
For Barrett Hamilton Crary