Friday, November 13, 2015

Back In My Day

I actually don’t think much has changed since I started surfing 30 years ago. 

Despite what the curmudgeons say, it’s not all that much more crowded than it was in 1985. The waves are mostly the same. The attitude in the water, if anything, might actually be better. The wetsuits are better. The boards are better. The performance is obviously better. And THAT’S the part that trips me out. The performance is so much better that very few of us can even attempt to relate to the current crop of pro surfers. 

My Dad told me about watching Wilt Chamberlain in the 60’s taking professional basketball to such a new level, that he could no longer relate. It had became a sport of hyper athletic giants. 

I think a similar quantum leap has happened in surfing. In 1986 anyone could watch Curren and Occy and think, “Someday, I might be able to do a turn like that.” They were the BEST, but it was still roughly the same thing you were doing. Just way, way better. 

Today’s pro surfers are doing a whole new sport. The airs, the flips, the tow-ins, the suicide barrels on freakish novelty waves…it’s hyper-specialized stuff most of us can't even comprehend, much less ever hope to do. 

Or even want to do. 

Ok, maybe that last part is a lie. But I'm gonna do roundhouse cutbacks until I believe it. 

The Colonel says, "At ease."

Monday, March 02, 2009

Easy Now

Scary times. Really fucking scary times. But probably the best time to be reminded of why we surf in the first place.

"My whole life is this escape. My whole life is this wave. I drop in, set the whole thing up, pull off a bottom turn, pull up into it...and shoot for my life...going for broke, man. And behind me, all the shit goes over my back. The screaming parents, teachers, police, priests, politicians, kneeboarders, windsurfers...they’re all going over the falls head first into the reef. Head first into the fucking reef. And I’m shooting for my life. And when it starts to close out I pull out through the bottom, out to the back, and I pick off another one and do the same goddamn thing."
-- Miki Dora, 1989

The Colonel says, "At ease. Really".

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Andy Irons, Master Of Whine

Ok, I'm a bit late on this one, but it needs calling out...

Andy Irons did his first "real" interview a few months ago. It basically consisted of the former 3x World Champ basically blowing his fuse for 20 minutes.

You can read it here.

During his rant, which didn't really touch on any of the specifics of his competitive fall from glory, he complained rather passionately about the surf media and all the lies and slander they've printed about him over the past couple of years, not to mention all the shit us "internet bloggers" were talking about him.

At the prompting of the interviewer, he actually compared his life-under-a-lens to that of Kobe Bryant and other professional athletes.

If this were a movie, that would have been the point where I sprayed Starbucks out of my mouth.

Quick note to Andy: The backup catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays gets ten times the media scrutiny that you do.

Professional surfers are the most non-criticized athletes on the fucking planet. Period. Which is bad enough...because listening to and reading the surf media, which is just the PR arm of the surf industry, is boring and repetitive. But having to listen to professional surfers actually complain that they're the targets of critical, mean spirited journalists, is...fuck...I don't even have a word for it.

It's idiotic.

It's inane.

It's so fucking delusional and pathetic it makes me want to tie them up with leashes, stuff them in boardbags and bury them in the desert (sorry, Gator, didn't mean to steal your idea).

Andy, do you have any clue what happens to real professional athletes who have spectacular competitive flameouts amidst endless rumors of alcohol and drug abuse?

First off, the don't stay rumors for very long. They become FACTS. Legions of reporters and journalists start sifting through your trash and calling your cousins on the phone in Kauai and showing up at your father's job and interviewing your 3rd grade teachers. Every time you leave a strip joint or a bar or a westside plate lunch stand, a half dozen photos get snapped. You wind up on the cover of Sports Illustrated with headlines like "Wipeout!". You have 7 page exposes written about you in the LA Times and Vanity Fair with photos of you in mid-yawn, looking bloated and hungover, and that nasty white clag in the corner of your mouth.

The only professional surfer in history who has gotten even a taste of true sports celebrity is Kelly Slater, and even Slater, the NINE TIME WORLD CHAMPION, is still more well known outside of surfing as the guy who had a bit part in Baywatch and once dated Pam Anderson. He's not even C-list. At red carpet events they tell Kelly to get out of the way so they can get a shot of Andy Dick.

Know this, Andy Irons: the entire surfing industry is on your side. You're good for the sport and you're good for sales. When I met with the head of marketing for Hurley while back, he couldn't stop talking about how many pairs of "rising sun" boardshorts you had sold for Billabong. They are the best selling boardshorts EVER.

So quit your fucking whining. When you've got Evan Slater drilling you about hookers and blow and your wife is telling Chris Mauro about what a distant limpdick you've become and how she's going to dump you for Derek Jeter, you may complain.

Until then, you are a professional surfer who gets paid very well to travel around the world and ride waves. You are part of a billion dollar industry, with virtually no independent media outlets, that provides you with more privacy and less criticism than in any sport in America.

Have a Bintang and a smile and shut the fuck up.

The Colonel says, "At ease."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

How Much For That Hole In The Wetsuit?

Funny how there is absolutely zero unbiased information available about ANY surfing related product.

Ever thought about that?

I mean, surf gear is not cheap. It's not Formula One racing, but it's not soccer either. The average board is $500 and the average wetsuit is probably $250+. Toss in leashes, traction pads, wax, board bags, racks, and you can easily plunk down a cool grand before you've even touched saltwater.

It's especially weird when you realize you can read professional, unbiased reviews of tennis rackets, running shoes, golf clubs, crampons, movies, tacos, wine, even toys. There are literally dozens of websites and magazine that scrutinize, evaluate, and rate every six dollar Star Wars action figure that Hasbro spits out every month.

So why is surfing exempt? Why do we, as surfers, plunk down hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, every year on expensive, high performance sporting goods with nothing more than a "It's killer, bro" from a zit-faced 17 year-old surf shop employee who's probably flunking social studies?

It's fucking retarded. WE'RE retarded. I'M retarded.

To either prove my point or to fight back against it, or both, I bought an O'Neill PsychoFreak yesterday. On the off chance you didn't commit last Fall's Surfer Magazine "2008 Wetsuit Guide" (AKA a 22 page advertorial written by the wetsuit companies themselves) to memory, the PsychoFreak is the mainstream surf industry's first $500+ wetsuit.

Psycho Freaky Expensive
Why is it $500?

Well, it's full of holes. Literally. Some R&D genius at O'Neill decided that if you took neoprene rubber and carved a bazillion little divots in it, you'd have a wetsuit with a bazillion little air pockets sandwiched inside. Or as they call it, "Air Insulated XDS Neoprene". The air pockets, in turn, make the wetsuit lighter and warmer.

A Bazillion Pockets Of Warmth

Okay. I guess. Sounds, um, sort of plausible. I think. Maybe.

But I was intrigued. I couldn't get it out of my head. It was either the most brilliant innovation in 50 years of wetsuit design, or the biggest marketing gimmick since the same company released the first $300+ wetsuit back in the late 80's, the short-lived "Animal", which primarily consisted of their highest end wetsuit at the time with a bunch of Darth Vader panels glued on.

Luke, I Am, Like, Your Father, Bro

Now, I did not actually spend $500 on my holy wetsuit. Thanks to the economy, Jack's Surfboards is having a 30% off sale on all wetsuits, so I successfully got my bad self all freaky and psycho-y for the bargain price of $350...about the cost of a decent higher end suit. A pittance, really, for the honor of becoming the first David Horowitz of the surfing world.

But let's cut to the chase: is the PsychoFreak warmer and lighter than O'Neill's next most expensive suit, the Psycho II? And if so, is it a buck fifty warmer and lighter?

(And before I answer that, just savor for a minute the sad fact that NO ONE has asked this question before. There are FIVE mainstream surf magazines in America alone.)

The short answer is, big surprise, no.

It's a great suit, don't get me wrong. O'Neill, to their credit, make fantastic wetsuits. They're incredibly warm and flexible and they don't disintegrate into wet toilet paper after six months like Rip Curls (another media-ignored topic we'll address later).

Yes, the PsychoFreak 3.5 is a tad lighter than my Psycho II 2/3. And it might be like one degree warmer.

But is the PsychoFreak suited for "frigid" conditions as their website claims? Are holes in the rubber really another "Revolution Courtesy of Area 52?" (Area 52 being O'Neill's not-so-humble euphemism for 6 guys in a shop carving up neoprene swatches.) Is it a wetsuit "ready for the harshest of conditions?" And is it worth five HUNDRED recession era American dollars?

Kind of. No. Kind of. Definitely not.

And sadly, you heard it here first.

The Colonel says, "I am not an Animal."

Friday, December 05, 2008

Liar Liar

Remember when the Colonel claimed he'd never surf Salt Creek again?

Well, that bastard fucking LIED.

He paddled out yesterday, and it was okay. He saw an old college fried, Scott Finn, out in the water, which was nice. But then he had to listen to some retarded high school kid scream at everyone for an hour, and that made his ears hurt. (The Colonel did, however, shove the aforementioned retarded high school kid out of the way when the little shit faked going right on an obvious left, and scored a nice little left while squeezing a "Fuck, bro!" out of said fucktard.)

So TODAY, thinking he might be on a Salt Creek upswing, The Colonel disregarded all of Kenny's good advice about knowing when to hold, fold, walk, and run, and instead threw the dice again.

In return, The Colonel got to enjoy two solid hours of ridiculous high tide dumpers on the sand, which is fun if you're from Laguna and love skimboarding, but sucks if you're fat and slow and actually interested in standing up and riding waves.

The Colonel says, "No can hear, got sand in my ear."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Behind The Black Curtain

The Antman doesn't send out many photos these days.

A few weeks ago though, he sent out this shot of Black's in San Diego. It's an amazing image.

Black Beach, 2008

I'm not sure if it's a better photo than this one though. Kind of a tough call.

Black's Beach, 1992

The Colonel says, "At least we've got our trunks on."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

From The Archives Vol. II

"Before you turn around, you've spent maybe 20, 25, 30 thousand dollars on a movie."
-- Jack Horner

The Colonel (this one, not the one from the aforementioned film) has been on a bit of an 80's kick lately. But I think it's time to move into the 90's, when pink went black and surf movies went straight to video.

Okay, that's not entirely true.

Surf FILMS turned into VIDEOS as early as, well, the early 80's. We talked about Off The Wall II the other day and that was one of the first straight-t0-video surf flicks, and that was all the way back in 1984.

But I mean, really, how many people were actually buying surf movies in the 80's? I just pulled out some old issues of Surfing from 1986 and there were a few ads for surf movies on videotape, but they ranged in price from $70 (new releases) to $40 (bargain clearance). And those are 1986 dollars. That's over a hundred bucks in 2008 caish for friggin' Son Of The Last Surf Movie.

Kind of a rip.

The first video I remember that a significant number of surfers went out and actually purchased, was Billabong's Filthy Habits...right around '88/'89.

Which bring us to the 90's. For those of you old enough to remember, there was ONE video that really blew open the home video market for surf movies. In 1991 you either owned Kelly Slater In Black & White...or your roommate did.

But it was Taylor Steele, arch-nemesis of Surfer movie critic, Ben Marcus, and the undisputed king of 90's surf porn, who really turned the surf video "industry" into an Industry.

When the Colonel was living at 5010 Saratoga in OB in the spring of 1994, he and his roommates used to watch Momentum II over and over again in an effort to up the stoke level in between bong loads before yet another slop session at Av's.

This was my favorite segment.

So I was pretty stoked a couple of years later when, as an Arts & Entertainment writer for the Daily Aztec, I got the assignment to interview the king of surf porn for a front page article.

I hung around with Steele for a couple of days, went to his house, had lunch at Pipes in Cardiff, lurked at his "office" which was actually an extra room tucked in the back of some screenprinting shop, and even did a photoshoot of him surfing with his good buddy, Rob Machado. Kind of a "the director and his muse share a wave" sort of thing...not a bad bit of creative direction for a 5th year state college kid.

I even pulled in the Ant Man, back when he was still doing fraternity parties for Cal Candids and almost 10 years before he became a staff photographer for Surfer Magazine, to do the shoot.

Hey Rob, try not to be a dick, okay?

That's better. Thanks.

A few weeks later I got to stroll around the SDSU campus and see copies of my front page article strewn about, fluttering across the pavement like newsprint tumbleweeds, and getting stuffed behind and beneath every chair and desk on campus.

It was a proud moment.

The Colonel says, "At ease...but from the beach. And no slo-mo."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Who Are You?

Clay Marzo has been bugging me for a couple of years now.

No, not the fact that his surfing makes me feel like I'm 80 years old, arthritic, and slower than Benjie Molina after lunch. He just LOOKS like someone...someone I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out.

Finally, while ripping the CDs lingering at the bottom of the alphabet that I never got around to ripping 5 years ago, I figured it out.

Now, I'm pretty sure The Who never toured Hawaii back in the late 80's, but, well...I'm just saying.

They've got that "high performance" thing in common, too.

Pete Townshend, one of the underrated aerial pioneers.

Clay Marzo doing his version of "the windmill"

The Colonel says, "You better, you bet."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Off The Wall II

This is the first real surf movie I ever saw.

Lunch time, fall 1987, Outside Wave Club, Palo Alto High School.

I remember walking into the darkened classroom a few minutes late, letting my eyes adjust from the sunlight, and pulling focus on the grainiest, grungiest looking movie I'd ever seen...or heard. It didn't help that the tape sucked or that the VCR had tracking problems. It was dark and the ocean looked scary. 180 degrees from the Sunkist commercial I was expecting.

This was a CALIFORNIA surf movie. There was Tom Curren - but just a wetsuit-clad silhouette really - doing a big backside re-entry. It was gouge-like and aggressive. There was grit and grain and the music sounded like it was recorded in a garage.

Even the name: Off The Wall II. I thought, "Is there an Off The Wall ONE?"

I envisioned the first movie to be even grungier...even more hardcore. Like SO hardcore the video tapes just disintegrated after a single viewing. Maybe it wasn't even on video...just old reel-to-reels that REAL surfers watched in secret basements filled with old boards and chicks in bikinis sprinkled with shaping dust.

Somehow I even took the corny claymation as something kind of mysterious and dark-artsy. Who knew real surfers worked with clay? What other talents did they have?

Were we even supposed to be watching it? Was this really for the eyes of 14 year-old valley boys with crappy boards and middle-class intellectual parents sick of driving us over the hill to the beach?

I mean, shit, did the FBI warning at the beginning say anything about kooks?

Our 40 minute lunch period flew by and the tape was stopped. Jeff Parry, the senior who had started the club, promised he'd bring it back the following week. But he forgot or we couldn't get the VCR working again or it simply disintegrated into beach sand and kelp bits. We never did see the second half.

So I was pretty excited to find it on DVD 20 years later. I picked it up at Huntington Surf & Sport, raced home, cleared my wife and kids out of the living room, cracked a beer, and, fresh from a late afternoon session at the pier in HB, prepared to watch it with the eyes of a peer, a surfer with 20+ years credentials.

I was a little disappointed. While not exactly 1080p HD, it was hardly the dark, blurry hardcore document I remembered. The garage band soundtrack had been replaced in most segments with Devo and Men At Work. The claymation bits looked more like after-school art projects and less like the dark handiwork of the Lost Boys in their Santa Carla cliffside batcave.

About halfway through I actually got bored watching Ward Coffey flap his way through another lurching off-the-lip and wandered off.

Then something funny happened. A week later I tried to play it again and it didn't work. The disc, which I'd only touched once, was hopelessly corrupted.


So I bought another one, this time at a surf shop in San Clemente...a legit hardcore shop off of Pico in the warehouse district. No sign. No t-shirts. Just blanks, boards, resin, and a shelf of videos.

Guess what? Didn't work. Corrupted. Scratched. Who knows?

Which is when the paranoia started to creep in. Maybe 20 years isn't enough. Maybe I'm still not THIS TALL in order to ride this roller coaster. Maybe I should still be heeding that FBI anti-kook warning.

And somehow, the movie knows.

The Colonel says, "Fuck it, we're hanging out anyway."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Performers

You want tight trunks? You got it.

This is one of my all time favorite surf movies. Long out of print, I thought I'd never see it again.

Released in 1984, Quiksilver's "The Performers" documents the '83/'84 winter on the North Shore. And its got everything you want in a mid-80's surf movie:

1. Kong...with board logo and everything
2. Super cheesy narration
3. A killer soundtrack (Pink Floyd and Talking Heads...are you kidding me?)
4. Bad motion graphics
5. Killer board graphics
6. New wave boardshorts
7. Endless footage of guys dropping in at Sunset

But what I love most about old 80's surf movies is that the performance level was still pre-New School. The Colonel will never ever boost a frontside 360 air, but give him a few weeks and he just might pull a backside under-the-lip snap at Rocky Point.

He'll make some flippy floppy, too.

The Colonel says, "Everybody, GET IN LINE."

Monday, June 16, 2008

...And Salt Creek Was Wiped From The Earth


Fuckin' fuckity fuck fuck. What the FUCK am I doing here???

That's what the Colonel says to himself quite often when lugging his fat ass out of the water at Salt Creek.

Ah, Salt Creek...AKA, The Playground, The Zoo, The Pickle Family Circus, Detention, 8th Period, Jail Bait Beach, and, my personal favorite:


WHY? Why do I keep going there?

Stupid question. I know why.

It's 5 minutes from my office. The location is beautiful. The water makes Waikiki look like Huntington Beach after a flood and during a red tide. The parking is plentiful and easy. It stays glassy all day. And it's a ridiculously fun wave - rippable with tubes.

But the drawbacks...oh lord, the drawbacks. Three of the worst drawbacks you can imagine:

1. Crowded. 2. Crowded. 3. Crowded.

But not just crowded...every spot around here is's the WHO (not the HOW MANY). Quick demographic breakdown for the unfamiliar:

If you're under the age of 19 and compete in the NSSA, you surf Salt Creek every day.

If you attend high school within 100 miles, you surf Salt Creek every day.

If you attend junior high school within 100 miles, your mom drops you off so you can surf Salt Creek every day.

If you ride a boogie board and live south of Marin County and west of Coors Field, you drag your nuts at Salt Creek every day.

If you know a guy who knows a guy who knew a guy who once talked to Pat O'Connell in line at Wahoo's Fish Taco, you surf Salt Creek every day.

If you ARE Pat O'Connell, you surf Salt Creek every day.

If you are a grumpy old fuck on a giant board who is unfazed by air-boosting preteens and still think Salt Creek is some kind of secret spot, you surf Salt Creek every day.

If you are a Japanese trust-funder with enough photos of Lowers to fill a half dozen Hello Kitty shoeboxes, you now surf Salt Creek every day.

And that's just the WHO. Should I even get started on the HOW?

Today I paddled for a nice little left, inside of a 16 year-old blonde boy with giant buck teeth (possibly a Gudaskas? Dunno. Hard to keep track. They're kind of the Menudo of surfing) He promptly dropped in going right and as soon as I pulled back, re-directed left. It was the oldest trick in the book and he had it polished to perfection. Such ease. Such grace. Such laughter by his buddies as I sat on my board looking vaguely confused and retarded.

But that's Salt Creek, where you will...fairly often...feel confused and retarded.

The problem is that once in a while you will get Salt Creek GOOD and UNCROWDED.

You'll show up on some random Tuesday. The sun will be shining. It won't be blackballed. There will be peaks stringing the entire length of the beach. Pat will be off filming Drive-Thru-Somalia. Pat's entourage will be at home, re-framing their highlighted Winner's Circle tearouts from 1987. Grumpy guy will be camped out at the Point. It'll just be you, some drywaller from Laguna Niguel, a Japanese boogie boarder, and a crazy bodysurfing meth addict with a McDonald's tray.

You'll catch peak after peak. You'll go left and get barreled. You'll go right and get as vertical as your mediocre talent will allow you. You'll do four to the shore. You'll walk up to the showers past the entire cast of The Hills, convinced that Salt Creek is the greatest surf spot on God's Blue Earth.

But it's all just a set up. The car's a lemon. That chick is just messing with you. It's really a real-estate seminar.

Just like that, WHAM! The beach gets blackballed right as team Hurleybong paddles out. Now instead of 30 guys sharing 5 peaks, you've got 50 guys jockeying for 2 peaks. 48 of them rip. One is Ringo on a longboard, "just happy to be here, lads." And one is you. Bucky drops right and then goes left. Your 6'2" suddenly feels 4'2".

You are going to catch FUCK ALL while tails and fins go flying all around. Team NSSA will literally be paddling circles around you. The 1987 Winner's Circle boys will be showering you with 250 pound fish carves. Pat will smile and say hi...because he's nice...and let you watch him get the best wave of every set.

And you will limp in like the confused retard that you are. You will coil up you leash and want to stick it between your legs because that's where your tail would be if you had one.

You'll trudge past the girls from The Hills and realize they were laughing at you all along.

The elementary school kids will heckle you at the showers. Their mom will give you that, "Rough day, hon?" half smile even though she knows you're really a homeless pedophile with a van and a bag full of candy and puppies.

And as you plod up the hill, you'll look back over your shoulder and swear that you'll never surf in this fucking circus tent ever again.

But you will.

The Colonel says, "At ease."

Friday, January 04, 2008

From The Archives Vol. I

The Colonel realized on New Year's Day that, as of last Fall, he'd been surfing for 21 years.

Compared to most of his friends, who started surfing when they were like 7, that's actually not very long. It is, however, long enough that knee-high slop at T-Street doesn't exactly get the bowels rumbling.

Now this doesn't mean the Colonel lost his Yater Spoon to a Navy patrol boat or that he isn't regularly freezing his ass off this Norcal water that somehow found its way down to Trestles last month. It just means that huffing and puffing into backed-off bumps at Cottons doesn't exactly make for riveting surf reports.

Which means it's time to reach back into the old archives (as Weird Old Uncle Frank used to say) and talk story...

DISCLAIMER: The Colonel is a good guy. The Colonel has a wife and three kids. He likes puppies and old people. He donates to good causes, protested the start of the war in Iraq, and supports the Giants year in and year out despite being, on average, as old as he is. He was, however, a teenage boy at one point who did a lot of dumb shit. He was a 20-something young man who did a lot of dumb shit. The Colonel doesn't believe in revisionist history though. And these stories, even if they reflect the behaviors of an idiotic adolescent wearing Croakies and Frogskins and UGGS all at the same time, are pretty funny. So please, when you see the Colonel out at Middles, don't snake him because of past trespasses. It's ancient history and he has long since paid his dues...with interest. Plus, the Colonel surfs pretty fast for a fat guy in a little suit, and might just run you over.

So without further ado...

Way back in the Year Of Our Lord, One Thousand Nine Hundred And Ninety, when I was a senior in high school, I hung out with two different groups of surfers. One group thought of themselves as soul surfers, which was a trendy concept at the time...a sort of backlash to the iridium-Oakley-Blade-wearing, day-glo, floating-over-the-barrel, air-launching Ritchie Collins types who were so popular in 1990.

The other group, well, they wore iridium Oakley Blades, sported a lot of day-glo, liked to float over the barrel, and tried admirably to launch the aforementioned airs.

There were things about both groups that I liked. The soul guys were better conversationalists, which was nice when stuck in Hwy 17 traffic. The day-glo guys were funnier and more obnoxious which, truth be told, was also nice when stuck in traffic.

One thing I really liked about the day-glo boys was that they weren't picky about waves. The soul boys, who could spend an entire day driving back and forth between Pleasure Point and Steamer Lane in search of acceptable conditions, sometimes liked to talk about surfing a bit more than they actually liked to do it. The day-glo boys, well, fuck that. They had chicks to rig, fights to get into, classes to cut, and rap CDs to shoplift. They were busy and didn't have time to discuss the finer points of squash tails or whether or not surfing was a sport or a way of life.

So, when it came time to paddle out and boost those coveted 2-inch airs, Santa Cruz, which had better waves but was a hour drive from Shallow Alto, was rarely an option. Especially on a school day. Why not just huck our shit in the car, zip over the hill to Half Moon Bay, pull into a few closeout beachbreak barrels, steal some candy bars from the 7-11, and be back in time to take a shower and go fuck one of the cute sophomores who just broke up with her boyfriend?

Hey, sign me up.

And that's what we did in 1990 (minus the sophomore part, which I involuntarily substituted with the proverbial-but-nonetheless-accurate magazine under the mattress.)

So, (and this is important, so pay attention) a big part of the drive to Half Moon Bay in those days was a key stretch along Sand Hill Road. And for some reason, Sand Hill, which in 2008 is better known for its proliferation of big money Silicon Valley Venture Capital firms than its link to Hwy 92 and the ocean, was also a popular road with cyclists.

Considering I've never ridden anything other than a Huffy dirt bike, a paper route 10-speed, and a beach cruiser, I, to this day, have no idea why. But there they were, every day. Flying along with the cars, black padded butts in the air as we drove uphill, teardropped helmeted heads crouched over the handlebars as we drove downhill.

There and back, every day of the week, men and women, powering away on expensive bicycles like smooth-legged Hell's Angels.

Now, remember earlier when I mentioned that the day-glo boys were obnoxious and how that could be a nice thing when stuck in traffic? Good, because that becomes the main crux of our story here.

The fact is, when I say the day-glo boys were obnoxious, I mean OBNOXIOUS. Take a minute and think about teenagers and all the things that terrify you about them. Think about yelling from car windows. Think about bare asses and empty beer cans and driving too fast and all the other universal behaviors that should have every 17 year-old boy locked up in a cage until he's 22.

That was us. Really, it was them. Call it the "3rd Personality Phenomenon" or whatever, but when we were together, it was us.

Which means that a 40 year-old Palo Alto hippie with with a beard, Apple stock options, a $4,000 bike, a skintight yellow jersey, and a rear-view mirror jutting off the side of his Bell bicycle helmet, was nothing more than a source of entertainment.

We yelled at them. We horfed sunflower seed shells as we drove by. We blasted Public Enemy and Metallica at full volume with every window open. We stuck our asses out the windows and farted.

It was an endless source of amusement during an otherwise incredibly boring drive.

We discussed hurling an entire plate of AM/PM nachos out the window with extra cheese sauce and chili. But we were broke and usually hungry after a surf, so that never panned out. We discussed high-speed pissing but that sounded potentially messy. We even discussed the finer points of stealing a fanny pack from around someone's waist at 30 MPH, but that combination of finesse and danger freaked even us out.

Then one day it simply happened.

We were headed home, 3 of us squashed in my 1968 Karmann Ghia with boards strapped to the roof (NOT a cool car amongst the day-glo crew, but it was a gift from my Grandfather who was convinced it was a collector's item, and we couldn't always take Richie's* Vanilla Ice convertible Mustang 5.0, so someone else had to drive once in a while). And there, up ahead, was big, round, beautiful, shiny ass.

In reality it was the backside of a spandex-laden female, powering her way up a long incline with her head down and her butt up. And what a butt it was.

"Pull over, dude!" Richie screamed.

"Yeah, dude," Christian yelled over the sound of the roof rack straps humming and vibrating like the Spruce Goose on takeoff. "Let's slap that chick on the ass!"

Ever seen that Simpsons scene where Principal Skinner bends over to pick up "a shiny penny", wiggling his derriere in the air as Bart tries to will his slingshot back into his pocket, ultimately giving in to fate after Skinner's butt cheeks actually start to talk and encourage Bart to take a shot?

It was kind of like that.

Before I could think better of it (and let's be honest, had I actually been given a chance to think better of it, I would not have), I pulled the dark green Ghia up alongside the woman, Richie reached out the passenger window, slapped her flat on the ass, and yelled in his distinctive semi-inland patois of Jeff Spicoli and Flava Flav, "Keep up the good work, baby!"

And off into the sunset we drove, cackling all the way back to Embarcadero Road.

Now jump ahead a few weeks. Maybe even a month or two.

I've forgotten all about the big butt. I'm down in Big Sur with the soul surfers. We've just spent the weekend camping at Sand Dollar, surfing Willow Creek, smoking pot, and listening to Allen's brand-new Robert Johnson box set, which I hated even more than I hated Zeppelin (in a rare bit of cliquey consistency, my R.E.M. and U2 tapes were not allowed to be seen or heard amongst the soul surfer OR the day-glo crew).

As per usual, we planned to stop at my grandparents' house in Carmel on the way home for showers and possibly a free lunch at the tennis club. Also as per usual, I called home from a pay phone at a gas station in Pacific Valley. But in an odd twist, I did NOT get my Dad's usually happy voice on the other end. Instead, I got a combination of fear and stone cold seriousness.

I didn't even get a greeting or any questions about sharks.

"Hey Dad."

"Where are you?"

"Uh, Pacific Valley."

"Have you been to Carmel yet?"

"Uh, no."

"Have you seen your Grandparents yet?"

"Uh, not yet...we were just about to stop by."



"Do NOT go to your Grandparents' house."


"Your Grandfather wants your head on a platter. He is PISSED."

"WHY? What the hell did I do?"

"Did you slap some woman on the ass from your car?"

OH SHIT. Cue slow-but-fast horrific revelation that something bad you've done has just caught up with you, blindsided you from behind a tree, and has your balls in a vise...all before you've even had a chance to so much as think of an excuse.

How the fuck did she find us? Why the fuck did she call my grandparents? Am I going to jail?


"Did you SLAP some WOMAN on the ASS while driving your GRANDFATHER'S CAR?"

Oh fuuuuuuuuuck. Now cue slow-but-fast horrific revelation that just because your Grandfather gave you a car, didn't mean that he changed the title on it and that if someone looked up the license plate number in a moment of ass-slapped fury, they'd get ol' Sydney on the phone instead of stupid ol' you.

"You picked the wrong woman to slap on the ass, buddy. You hit a lawyer with a chip on her shoulder, and she memorized your license plate number, called the police, and the Portola Valley Sheriff's department just called up your Grandfather and accused him of assault."


"And if he sees you right now, he's going to take away your car, then kill you."

And then it just slipped out of my mouth.

"I didn't do it."

In full, Bart Simpson, non-ironic glory, I just said it. Matter of fact. Not a quiver. Not a hum or a haw.

"Richie said he knew the girl and asked me to pull over. I pulled over and he slapped her on the ass and told her to keep up the good work. He laughed and we drove away. That's it."

"We obviously he DIDN'T know that girl."


"Okay, well lay low. Don't even slow down in Carmel. Just come home."

"No prob."

"I'll call your Grandfather and try to explain what happened."

That's all it took. I didn't do it.

My Old Man called his Old Man, explained my fish story, which he then passed on to the Sheriff, who then passed it on to the angry lawyer. She cooled off...maybe went for a bike ride or something...and that was that.

After passing my close call along to the day-glo crew, I did, however, ensure that Richie was now slapping every chick at school on the ass and cackling his new catchphrase in full Flava Spicoli glory.

Keep up the good work, Baby!

So help me, it became the catchphrase of the Spring of '91.

The Colonel says, "We were teenagers once...and stupid."

*Again, names have been changed to protect the not-at-all-innocent-but-all-grown-up-and-long-since-repaid-their-debts-to-society-via-karma.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Johnny Bench From Cincinnati

Finally, we can get back to a world where there's only one John from Cincinnati, and that's Hall of Famer, and the greatest defensive catcher of all time, Johnny Bench.

John from Cincinnati, the sacrificial slot-filler from Sopranos-less HBO, has been cancelled.

Not to rub anyone's face in it, but in the immortal words of Gerry Lopez's little da Hui lackey in North Shore, "Beat it, haole buddy, dis is OUR wave."

I'm sorry to Steve Hawk and Keala and Dibi and Herbie and little Greyson, but that show sucked. And the reason it sucked was because of the surfing theme.

The fact is, surf culture just doesn't translate well onto the big or the silver screen, outside of the documentary format (and even then it's usually just masturbatory surf porn with the occasional hint of cleverness).

John From Cincinnati had some great actors but they were all wasted talent as they fumbled along with impossible to replicate surf-infused dialogue that came across as contrived sounding as any bullshit spewed out by the Windansea crew and later regurgitated for eternity in the Pumphouse Gang.

It's too bad because the premise was cool, minus the surfing: a funky border town populated with colorful characters and lovable burnouts, visited by a Christ-esque drifter with magical powers.

But listening to Rebecca De Mornay* chewing scenery with near-hysterical rants about missed heats and lucrative surf sponsorships gone bad...ugh, it just made you cringe.

The one bit of irony I enjoyed was the criticism of poor little mini-Fletcher's acting ability. His glazed-eyed Shaun Yost actually looked and behaved like most seaside preteen groms with better-than-average contest results - monotoned, slack-jawed, and generally soft-spoken (out of the water anyway). I thought he was dead on.

Anyhow, adios JfromC. It was a good effort. But if you want great television, look to HBO's rival, Showtime, for Californication. No surfing. Just some of the funniest scenes I've ever seen, as recently-divorced David Duchovny battles writer's block by fucking every married woman in LA. Hands down the best pilot I've ever seen.

The Colonel says, "Agent Mulder who?"

* Thanks to my boy Vince for pointing out that it was Rebecca De Mornay and not Roseanna Arquette. Those two might as well be Mary Kate and Ashley as far as the Colonel is concerned.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Giraffes, Tiki Monsters, & Oompa Loompas

Surf journalism is one of the lowest forms of journalism, or even writing for that matter. It ranges from smoke-to-colon-blowing fan mail to shameless corporate marketing disguised as reporting.

(Hey, I may be a corporate shill, but nothing I get paid to write pretends to be anything other than a grammatically incorrect sales pitch.)

Anyhow, one nice slice of irony related to surfing's embarrassingly endemic (i.e. "inbred") culture, is that every once in a while some decent surf writing appears in print. And it's almost always by the pen of a non-surfer, or at least a non-ex-pro surfer, which in surfing's cousin-fucking bro/brah network, is right up there with a bobsled team from Jamaica.

Anyhow, today's bit of outsider art comes from Cintra Wilson, a regular Salon columnist, and via Matt Warshaw's very decent collection of surfing called, "Zero Break." In 1999 Wilson attended the Lacanau Pro in France (and the Pipe Masters in 2000) and wrote up what are still the funniest, most dead-on descriptions of pro surfers anyone will ever have the pleasure of reading.

If you will...

Ken Bradshaw & Layne Beachley
Bradshaw seems to have built Layne Beachley, his much younger girlfriend, out of the refuse of his own frustrated ambitions. He coaches the living shit out of her. She is his creature; they walk around the beach smug and tan like the Tom & Nicole of the watersports set, and he shapes her surfboards with obnoxiously classified measurements and she publicly gushes over him whenever she wins anything and its all kind of grimy."

Andy Irons
Andy has a knack for showing up on videos half drunk and talking in an especially depraved-sounding Hawaiian patois -- a nearly unintelligible melange of surfer dude-isms and mangled English -- and coming off like a real parking lot alky with a big foam head. But on the positive side, he's a really exciting surfer with the kind of brute animal energy that makes your blood pay attention. You can find Andy on the last page of the latest issue of Surfer, charging the tube holding a can of Bintang Pilsner, with his eyes rolling half up into his head, looking red, bloated and poisoned like fat Elvis."

Megan Abubo

"Megan Abubo had a quietly bratty manner and big Walkman earmuffs on her head, and dressed way down in shapeless casuals like a sullen teenage raver, looking like she needed to be grounded or spanked or something."

Brock Little
"Brock Little looked like a piece of animated driftwood. He'd been absolutely chiseled by the teeth of the ocean, physically and spiritually -- he had the look of somebody who's died six or seven times already and is now a project of voodoo scientists, running on some whole other ghost chemical. All the blood in his body has been removed and replaced with concentrated adrenaline and a clear, high-octane bionic fluid made from denatured testosterone and the distilled essences of his dead friends, which makes him beautiful and creepy to look upon."

Pro Surfers
"A vast majority of surfers are built like sea turtles -- short as hell. Most of the women are barely over 5 feet; many of the men are barely over 5-5 with wide torsos and really short legs and arms with wide hands like flippers, and long, rubbery spines that seem to have too many vertebrae, like the Ingres Odalisque. Extremely low center of gravity. The Brazilian pros are practically Oompa Loompas - they weigh little more than the chicks, and it does nothing but magical things for their wave ability."

"There are the odd bullheaded tantrum-throwers like Hawaiian tiki monster Sunny Garcia, who had a couple of colorful shit-fits and poked some guy in the chest while we were there, but for the most part, all the petty parts of surfers' brains seem blasted away by the overpowering waters and they have the weird, gentle majesty of giraffes or monks."

You can read the Lacanau Pro article here and the Pipe Masters article here. You will laugh until you spew Primo beer from your nose.

Surf jounalists, hear me now and believe me later (thank you Hans, thank you Franz): your writing is girlie-man shit and not one of you has ever written a thing that wasn't corporate co-opted cheerleading crap. You write for trade magazines that aren't even as even-handed as trade magazines.

You are also a bunch of pansies. Before you even finish reading this you should pull your free Hurley boardshorts up your ass as hard as you can - a well-deserved wedgie which would have hurt a lot more back when you were stuffed in nylon Katins.

Cintra, you rule. Daniel Duane? You rule, too. Weisbecker? Rules.

The rest of you? Get back to work. Isn't your "wetsuit guide" almost due?

Friday, August 03, 2007

Oh, Side

Oside this morning. Small, crumbly, crappy. Very disappointing.

Normally the Colonel reserves the drive through Pendleton for big swells, but it's summer and sometimes you just gotta rally with the SD crew any way you can.

Now I'm back in Dana Point at the new office, which, I gotta say, is just fucking epic.

We're across the street from the Dana Point harbor. There's a sushi place next door, a bakery, a sandwich place, and bluffs on both sides of our little complex. Did I mention we have rocks inside? We do.

Since I'm going down this little rathole anyway, here's another shot. Then we can go back to complaining about the waves in the land of baby parents.

Speaking of which, the baby parents were out in full force today. The Colonel tries not to get weirded out by 18 year-old enlisted boys and their tiny tykes, but especially nowadays, it's hard not to stare a bit. I mean, I've been surfing the harbor and eating breakfast at that same Denny's for 15 years now. And the Denny's is, and always has been, ground zero for high school graduation->wedding->bootcamp->delivery room couples and their offspring. I guess I'm just finally old enough that they really look like children to me now.

Pity? I don't think so. They usually seem as happy as any other couple with a baby or two in tow. But yeah, maybe there's a little pity mixed with the fascination that makes it hard to stop watching them as we eat. Then again, maybe it's the his and hers matching tattoos, which seems to be growing in popularity.


So yes, waves were crap today. Should have brought a fish or a log, but I had higher expectations.

Meanwhile, surfing in San Clemente these past few weeks has been an interesting experience. It's definitely a different beast than HB. Completely different actually.

HB is big. Big beaches, big lineups, big parking lots. It's very spread out (unless you're surfing the pier, which is kind of like a big mosh pit that smells like hamburgers). San Clemente is compact...most of the beaches are crammed up against cliffs and bluffs...which is actually nice. I mean, it's not Laguna, but the beaches are semi-pretty and have some natural characteristics. Unlike HB which is urban surfing at its most urban. Think Miami with brownish water and more trash on the beach.

The other big difference is the blackball factor. Almost every beach in SC is partially blackballed during the summer. And the fact is, it has to be. The same topography that created the bluffs also causes the beaches to drop off fairly dramatically into the ocean. That translates into waves that break very close to shore and creates a close encounter situation with swimmers that would be unmanageable without the blackball. It sucks but it's necessary.

Besides, it's not like they blackball the entire beach. North Beach, T-Street, State Beach...there's always a surfing stretch within walking distance.

And yes, the vibe is also very different in South County. Hardcore Huntington is Hardcore Huntington. Even away from the pier there's an attitude and a vibe that's just a bit this side of unpleasant. San Clemente is simply mellower. It looks mellower and it is. The cliffs are soft and rounded, the style of the city is more fluid and relaxed, and the water is prettier and warmer. The boys and girls in the water reflect that.

Not surprisingly, I haven't surfed Trestles once. Fact is, you could live on Christianitos Road and Trestles would STILL be a complete hassle to surf. The walk in, the waiting for waves, the changing on the beach, the walk's a half day commitment, minimum. All that for the most crowded wave in California? Well, I was going to say "pass" with a self-satisfied smirk on my face. But I just couldn't get it out.

Despite all the hassle, Trestles is one of the best waves I've ever surfed. One head-high wave can turn the walk and the wait into loose change.

The Colonel says, "I'll be back."