Thursday, July 29, 2004

Crowd City

Huntington Beach is a HUGE town. We're talking almost 200,000 people. That's a shitload.

The next time you forgo the 405 (sorry, Norcal buddies...it's THE 405) for PCH, notice just how long it takes to get from the River Jetties (cutoff between Newport and Huntington on the south side) to Seal Beach.

That's one LONG ASS stretch of beach.

Which is kind of funny since HB is known primarily for this one tiny little area - the pier and Main St - arguably the most crowded stretch of beach in Orange County (downtown Laguna could easily vie for that title, but I think Laguna's crowds are misleading - two lane road, tiny side streets, hills - I don't think the numbers of people support how chaotic it FEELS).

Anyhow, my point is that Huntington is just one of those places that gets really crowded in one certain spot, and yet is known, as a town, for that spot. In short, Huntington is known as a congested, chaotic, hectic surf spot.

And it is...right by the pier anyway.

So today, my buddy and I decided to steer clear of the pier (and the US Open) and paddle out further north, around 12th St. Just 12 blocks north of the action.

Totally empty.

Well, not totally empty. There were 3 girls about 14, dressed like they were about 21. There were a couple of families with a bunch of kids. Let's see, what else...oh, there was the lifeguard, sealed up in his little tower, watching his colleagues screwing around on their boats, ATVs, and brand new trucks (anyone ever seen a genuine drowning victim actually saved? I haven't. But I have seen the lifeguards racing up and down the beach like Hell's Angels in red trunks every day. Looks like fun.)

Oh yeah, and there was the bodysurfing guy who just graduated from some religious college and is now the proud possessor of a degree in "Christian Education". Suh-weet! I can't believe this guy still can't find a job. You'd think the offers would be pouring in. They must not know that he also scored a Minor in Theology. Microsoft, what, you guys need a written invitation? Scoop this guy up before IBM lands him!

I'm teasing. Really. Totally nice guy. We chatted for like 20 minutes out in the water, which, despite what Surfline said, was definitely warmer than 65 degrees. Was easily pushing 70, and this was on top of fairly heavy (and typical) cold, onshore wind.

My point is, the beach was pretty much empty. The waves kinda sucked - waist high and fairly blown out, but definitely rideable, especially on a longboard.

So there we were, smack dab in the middle of "Surf City, USA", 12 blocks from the most famous pro surf contest in America, at the end of July, with a small but rideable swell rolling in, with beautiful sunshine and warm water, and we had the run of the place.

Think about that for a minute. Not some random spot in Marin, or some hidden reef in Point Loma (oh fuck, who am I, Sam George? I'm making a subtle reference to RALPH'S, and it's an overrated spot near Sunset Cliffs in San Diego that you need a boat to get to...secret spot, my ass), but Huntington.

We got a parking spot right in front of the stairs, threw two bucks in quarters in the meter, paddled out on logs, in trunks, with no leashes, and surfed for a solid hour with only our unemployed Christian friend to keep us company (well, him and the hardworking lifeguards doing donuts in their boat).

Driving back to my house, I noticed the route I usually take - bypassing the pier and Main St. altogether - and realized that when you skip that area altogether, HB can actually feel a bit like a sleepy little beach town.

Try it yourself...

Swing down Frankfurt St. on some lazy Thursday afternoon. Grab a Coca-Cola at Steve's Liquors. Take a left on Huntington St., check out the cool plantation style house on the right, admire some of the neat old bungalows from the 20's that HAVEN'T been ripped down yet and replaced with 3 story stucco marvels, and just feel the small town.

It's there. I felt it today. It felt, uh...mellow.

Am I even allowed to say that in Huntington without getting tackled, my truck raised two feet, and a tattoo inked onto my arm? Seriously, it was totally mellow. Granted, I'll probably get woken up tonight by 3 skinheads on cruiser bikes suffering from Elephantitus of the Chrome, yelling, and throwing leftover M80s (in HB, the 4th of July actually starts in late June and lasts well into September).

But for now...right now...I live in HB, "Surf City". Home of empty beaches, uncrowded waves, warm water, friendly people, where no one ever drowns, and where even the unemployed are highly educated (and highly spiritual).

What a town.

The Colonel says, "At ease."


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Breakout the Aquasocks

Three days in Norcal, stuck in the office in Sunnyvale. Was actually in a conference room until midnight last night. Fuck. I thought I was over that.

On a positive note, I rolled down to my old man's house in Pacific Grove on Monday night to go through some old boxes of stuff recently retrieved from my Mom. And there, mixed in amongst yearbooks, 3rd place AYSO trophies, and about a half dozen trees worth of Sears portraits, was a whole big honkin STACK of old surf mags - Surfer and Surfing dating back to the mid-80's, plus a whole bunch of Breakouts and a handful of ill-fated "Local" surf magazine/newspaper thingies from Santa Cruz.

Okay, fine, there were some Body Boarder mags, too, which I can't really deny, but let me at least defend myself by saying that there were NO HOLES in any of the pages. And considering my room used to be literally wallpapered with cutout surf shots, and that most of the surf mags I looked through resembled Swiss cheese, that has to tell you something.

So who remembers Breakout? "California's Surf Magazine?" C'mon, ring a bell? Well, if you don't remember, it was a shortlived surf magazine from the mid-late 80's that focused primarily on California. It did run photos and stories from Hawaii and Baja and elsewhere, but those usually featured California boys or somehow tied it all back into the West Coast motif. I'm not sure if it was actually started and/or published by Chris Ahrens, but he wrote the lion's share of the content...in some issues he appeared to write ALL the content.

Like I said, most of the mags were full of cutouts, but I did manage to glean a few observations on Breakout that might jog some bong and surfboard resin-clogged brain cells.

- The 1988 "Swimsuit Issue" had the most ass-faced chicks I've ever seen in print. There was actually a chick that looked like a 40 year-old waitress named Thelma. Apparently Mr. Ahrens pinched pennies not only in the editorial "department", but he obviously wasn't calling up Aaron Chang in the photo department either. "California Girls?" More like "Fugly Girls from Hemet and their Semi-Hot Cousin from Chula Vista".

- There was a two-page Nike ad featuring Colin Smith pulling into a Baja tube wearing turquoise Nike Aqua Socks. For some reason I mentioned these hideous things in an earlier post. And as if that ad wasn't bad enough, there was a whole photo section featuring Baja with two or three additional shots of Colin from the SAME SESSION. Those ridiculous neon bootie-substitutes were so bad that they almost offset his white, pink, yellow and black Body Glove wetsuit. Don't mean to get Queer Eye on you here, but just envision that for a minute. Then stop.

Oh, remember any of these surf brands from the past?

- BA Surf Stuff (featuring little Killroy type dude surfing with his butt sticking out.)

- Surfer's Alliance (featuring various colored aliens aboard a large Star Trek-esque space ship, all checking live surf cams from different planets, and all wearing the latest in geometric shape patterned surf trunks...you know, "Jamz" style.)

- Instinct ("Only a Surfer Knows the Feeling", right, mate?)

- Beach Towne (a staple of Hans "Logo Whore" Hedeman's Nascar-inspired surfboards...proudly featuring, among many others, the now sadly defunct Primo Beer. Eh? No can hear. Got beer in my ear.)

- Marui (okay, I have no idea if Marui is still around or not. Hell, I have no idea if Marui was even a surf brand...or what on Earth they sold, processed or bought. All I know is that year after year it was the Marui Pipeline Masters. Good enough for me.)

And while we're on it, how about some of these pro surfers. Where are they now? Feel free to post comments if you know...or have dirt (even better)...

- Ted Robinson (mostly what I remember about this dude was that he kicked some ass in the NSSA and then got booted when they found out he and his buddy, Kelly Gibson, forged their transcripts and had been flunking their way through school for years. Epic. Well done, lads.)

- Richard Schmidt (the Steve Martin of the surf world, this guy always looked about 45, with white, receding hair...but for a long time he was the ONLY Santa Cruz guy who got any national or international coverage, with Anthony Ruffo, Marcel Soros, and Kevin Reed bringing up a very distant rear.)

- Jim Hogan (another name I mentioned in a past post. Has anyone ever met him in person? He's like 4'11". Talk about a seabiscuit.)

- Chris Menzie (I remember this dude showing up at my house in OB about 10+ years ago and trying to sell me and my roommates some of his old wetsuits and clothes. All I could think at the time was, 1. "Hey, it's Chris Menzie...cool!" and 2. "I bet this guy has a drug problem...cool!")

- Chris Frohoff (Not only was this guy the only Californian capable of occasionally joining Tom Curren in the Top 16 at the time, but more importantly, he had the all-time greatest 80's surfer dude hair. 100% pure money.)

- Scott Farsnworth (Scott was sort of like Fro's blonde counterpart in the O'neill ads, but he could never match's Fro's hair, forgoing the bleached hair helmet and opting instead for the parted butt cut.)

- Scott Daley (okay, so this guy was from Florida and an astonishingly  forgettable semi-competent pro surfer on top of that. However, I'll never forget his amazing line from The North Shore, following his early round loss to hot shot up and comer, Rick Kane - "I heard Mr. 'Nose for Waves' comes from a wave tank in Arizona!" What a sourpuss.)

Okay, that's enough reminiscing for one night. On top of this large serving of 80's cheese, I also packed on a corn dog, some fried zucchini, and an Orange Julius from the OC County Fair, and right now I need to go see a man about a horse.

Speaking of horses, go to the fair and pay $2 to see the giant horse and the giant cow. Fucking worth every penny. Probably worth ten times that. That cow will seriously blow your mind (oh, and if you see Ted Robinson, tell him "hi" and make sure he gives you a fresh corn dog - not the one sitting under the heat lamp for 20 minutes.)

As for me, I'll be back in the water tomorrow, even with the US Open in full swing. Don't know about you, but I've got my money on Bud Llamas .

The Colonel says, "At ease."




Sunday, July 25, 2004

Check Me Out...I'm On Fire

I'm sunburned. Well, kind of.

I spent all day cleaning and re-surfacing my sundeck. Huntington might be the windiest beach town in Southern California, but it still gets hot as shit. And, thanks to my wife's less-than-thorough sunblock application, I've got a nice Gorbachev-shaped birthmark on my back. Sweet.

Unfortunately, home improvement is home improvement and the closest I got to surfing today was listening to the sound of the US Open announcer echoing throughout the downtown area. Last year I remember hearing Lit play on the final day, which was kind of cool considering we're like 8 blocks from the pier and yet could still distinguish one song from another.

It reminded me a bit of when Shoreline Amphitheater opened for business in Norcal (for those of you unfamiliar with Shoreline, it's almost exactly like Irvine Meadows...er, sorry...Verizon Wireless Amphitheater). Anyhow, the weird thing wasn't that people 10 miles away could hear the music, it was that people only 2 miles away could NOT. Turns out loud noise can sometimes do this weird thing where it kind of arcs up and out, similar to a water fountain (i.e. you stand right next to it and you stay dry, and yet if you move further away you get wet as the arcing water lands on your melon).

Speaking of music, I spent most of today listening to Indie 103.1. I don't want to turn this blog into a big plug blog (a "plog" perhaps?), but holy shit, this station continues to amaze me. I've actually started jotting down songs they play that I've never heard on the radio before. Here's just a sample:

"I and I" - Bob Dylan (from the Infidels album...amazing record from the early 80's)
"Debaser" - Pixies
"Somebody Got Murdered" - The Clash (from Sandinista!...the one Clash album most people don't own)
"Something to Believe In" - The Ramones (an incredibly underrated single from Animal Boy...the very first punk album I ever owned)
"Why Can't I Touch It" - The Buzzcocks
"Step On" - The Happy Mondays (BTW, if you've never seen 24 Hour Party People, run, don't walk to your local video store...it was, BY FAR, the best film of 2002)
"My Girl" - The Hoodoo Gurus

Bottom line is that this station is amazing. They play all this fantastic old stuff, combined with all the good new stuff, some of which you will  hear on KROQ or 91X (Bad Religion, NOFX, The Postal Service, The Killers, Modest Mouse) but a lot of which you will not (stuff like Grandaddy, Air, Scissor Sisters, and BRMC). Fucking great stuff. If you're not in Orange County or LA, lucky for you they stream live http://indie1031.fm/main.html

Oh, and in case anyone thinks I'm some sort of indie music snob, let me just list out a handful of songs that have been on my iPod playlist lately:

"Never Been Any Reason" - Head East
"Carry on My Wayward Son" - Kansas
"Red Barchetta" - Rush
"Renegade" - STYX
"Dream Police" - Cheap Trick
"Godzilla" - Blue Oyster Cult

Not sure I've ever seen a less cool setlist, but man, that late 70's / early 80's prog rock shit has been especially sounding good this summer. Fuckin' play some Asia, man!

So since we're kind of OFF THE SURF THING for a day, and it was hot as a motherfucker today, let's roll with the summer thing.

First off, the Dodgers, the Giants and the Padres...all scrapping over first place, as well as the wild card. How cool is that? The East Coast media can jerk themselves off all summer long to images of Jason Varitek and A Rod rolling in the dirt. As with the 2002 World Series, they're simply going to miss out on some of the best baseball (not to mention one of the best divisional races), of the year.

Fuck the Red Sox and fuck the Yankees. And while we're at it, fuck Roger Clemens, that bat throwing asshole, and fuck the Chicago Cubs and their 8 ZILLION transplant fans.

Speaking of which, has anyone else been to a home game (doesn't matter which team) in California against the Cubbies? Holy shit, how can there by anyone left in Chicago? With so many emigrated transplants, the Windy City should have tumbleweeds blowing through the streets. We took the train down to Petco for a Cubs/Padres game and the ENTIRE TRAIN had on Sammy Sosa jerseys. I thought maybe it was just a Chicago crew from Orange County. Nope. The crowd at Petco was just a sea of gaudy red and blue - easily as many Cubs fans as Padre fans, if not more.

I always thought Chicago was a pretty sweet city to live in. Apparently not.

So, a few weeks ago my sister graduated from the business school at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. We stayed at Sycamore Springs, which is pretty nice but smells a bit like sulfur from the natural springs. Anyhow, on our last day we all ended up at the pool. It was really hot and no one wanted to get out of the pool so we wound up playing Marco Polo like a bunch of 10 year olds.

It was so much fun, and we were feeling like such kids, that on our way home we stopped at a gas station and I bought a grape soda and a Whatchamacallit. Has anyone else had a grape soda and a Whatchamacallit since the 4th grade?

Well, if you haven't, you need to. Maybe it was the heat...maybe it was the chlorine stinging my eyes...maybe it was dry arugula salad I had for lunch. Either way, the Whatchamacallit washed down by an IBC Grape Soda was EPIC. It was so good that I highly recommend that you revist your youth one day this summer and toss back this snack of late 70's childhood champions.

One last little summer tidbit and we'll call it a day.

We recently bought my son a little inflatable kiddie pool for the front yard. Now, with the exception of some parties in college where guys filled a kiddie pool with ice and beer, I haven't seen a kiddie pool in many, many years. And actually, they haven't changed much. Minus this cool little feature where you can attach the hose and this little fountain of water shoots out the side, they're pretty much the same size, have that same plastic smell, and have those same funny little designs of whales and fish.

More importantly though, what hasn't changed is just how much a little toddler will GO NUTS when you strip his clothes off on a hot day and let him loose in the front yard with a luke-warm kiddie pool smack dab in the middle.

You know how you feel when you get down to the beach, and it's like 90 degrees and you've been in the car for an hour and the back of your shirt is plastered to your back and you see the waves are like shoulder high and it's glassy and there are peaks breaking up and down the beach and you pretty much trip over yourself running down to the water trying not to scream like a kook but unable to contain the little yelps and hoots as you splash into the water?

Well, that's how little one and a half year olds react to kiddie pools in their front yard. My kid just hacked and yelped and tripped and waved his hands like some sort of epileptic symphony conductor all the way from the front door to the pool, and which point he hit the side like a drunk driver hitting a guard rail, and flipped head over heels into the pool.

Now, I have no idea how good a surfer my kid will be. But as Felipe Alou likes to say, "Let me tell you somting...the kid is STOKED."

Okay, well, he says the first part a lot.

The Colonel says, "At ease."



Friday, July 23, 2004

Stay Outta Hollywood, Lebowski

Yesterday was quite the rant, so let's shift gears a bit, eh? Instead of some long convoluted tirade on the state of the surf industry, let's just weave together a handful of random observations and call it clever.

Right, then...

Longboarding is really hard. Obviously the getting up and catching waves part is easier than shortboarding, but everything else is much harder. Carrying the board, paddling out, maneuvering, just overall DEALING with the beast is a  bitch.

After yet another log sesh in afternoon HB slop, I have a whole new respect for longboarders (and by "longboarder" I don't mean "funboarders" or anyone riding anything under a 9'0"). Getting caught inside is almost maddening. Shortboards are just so easy to deal with. Duck dive after duck dive - no problem. But punching through on a 9'8" thickly glassed canoe is a whole other deal. Turning turtle, flipping back over - whatever - even just a few waves can take a lot out of you.

Anyhow, the waves were tiny, sloppy, and doubling up - complete crap, really. But it was a lot of fun, and I'm tired. Beats the hell out of jogging, too.

So, Wednesday night I made the mistake of watching In God's Hands on TiVo. I avoided it like the plauge when it came out in '98, and for good reason. Sidestepping the whole surf movie thing, this is simply one of the worst regular movies I've ever seen. At least North Shore was fairly campy...kind of Ride the Wild Surf meets The Karate Kid. In God's Hands is just...AWFUL.

I don't know, maybe it will be funny awful in a few years and we'll go see the midnight showing at the Lido Cinema and laugh and drink beers. Not ruling that out at all. But MAN, everything about this film is hideous. Shane Dorian's subdued whisper-acting (ALA Bruce Willis in Unbreakable) is just so pathetic. And his little gappy teeth and brooding 1,000 yard stares. Ouch.

Matt George chews enough scenery that at times I almost expected him to pull back his cape, throw up his arm like Master Thespian and yell, "ACTING!"

The best part though, has to be the scene in the Balinese cafe where Shane, Matt and Matty hook up with the "Strapped Crew"...Derrick Doerner, Rush Randle and, you know, those other Hawaiian guys.

To really appreciate this scene though, you have to flashback to The Blues Brothers.

Remember all the guys in the Band, aside from Jake and Elwood? In case you didn't know, all those guys were (are) legendary musicians in real life. Steve Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn, the whole lot of 'em...seriously, some of the best in the business. It was great because none of them could act worth a shit and they all got like one or two lines, but it didn't matter, because each one was so badly delivered that they became instantly memorable.

"He opened up a soul food restaurant with his old lady...and he took Blue Lou with him."

"We'll never get that fat sound without Mr. Fabulous."

"I say we give the Blues Brothers one more chance."

"Why not? If the shit fits, wear it."

And that's exactly how that scene in Bali was. 5 legendary big wave riders, allowed to play themselves, and carving their lines out of pure wood. Beautifully awful. Derrick Doerner was so bad that after I stopped envisioning Matt "Guitar" Murphy and Tom "Bones" Malone, I started thinking about Karl Hungus from the Big Lebowski saying, "Yah...I haf come to feex da cable", everytime he opened his mouth. 

With that said, the Colonel might just put up his longboard-battered feet, tune out the sound of HB police helicopters spotlighting skinheaded tweakers on cruiser bikes, and pop in the aforemention DVD .

The Colonel says, "Calmer than you are, Dude."

At ease.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Step Into Dogshit

Surfline called me a "slightly disenchanted" surfer.

I think that's a fairly good description. As a matter of fact, let's run with it today.

Been in SF again this week, so haven't been back in the water since Monday afternoon. Which, by the way, was quite fun. That south swell wasn't exactly pumping, but there were lots of waves to be had.

Anyhow, the Norcal crew and I saw Riding Giants Tuesday night in THE CITY. Quick FYI - don't call it San Fran or, even worse, Frisco. Everyone just calls it THE CITY, which is rather big of them since, um, there are other cities. But whatever. People in San Francisco have always been convinced that the world revolves around them and that they're cooler than, in most cases, they actually are.

So, we saw Stacy Peralta's lastest and it was pretty good. Didn't quite have the flair or the "warts and all" dirt of Dogtown and Z-Boys, but it still delved a bit deeper into real surf culture than, say, that piece of shit fluff piece by Bruce Brown's copycat kid. Speaking of which, why do we put up with that shit? Did anyone watch that surf industry promo film and not feel their $8 trough of Coke bubbling back up their throat?

I could practically hear the pitter patter of little feet as tens of thousands of surf-stoked moviegoers made tracks to their nearest surf shop. You hear it? You hear the sound of free bars of wax getting dropped into little paper bags as Al Merrick logs yet another six hundy for a board shaped by a Oaxacan day laborer turned surfboard line cook?

And look, before you get any ideas, please understand that none of this has anything to do with some kind of anti-commerical stance. I'm not driving around with that quack from Santa Cruz who parks at every contest and spouts about the death of soul or the commercialization of a pure, spiritual interaction with Mother Nature.

It ain't that. As a matter of fact, I'm in advertising, and I'm all for the surf industry. I'm all for contests and I'm all for surf movies.

It's BULLSHIT that I don't like. And the entire surf industry is almost pure bullshit.

To illustrate this is kind of complicated, but I think we can pull it off. To start, tell me, which parts of Step Into Liquid did you relate to? The friendly, wacky "Strapped Crew" and their chummy trips with the "Santa Cruz Crew" to some remote island where they waxed philosophical about fuck all? Or maybe the Malloy brothers uniting Northern Ireland with their free brethren to the south, all thanks to a grom sesh in freezing slop? Oh man, that was "heavy". Isn't it great the way we as a people can all be united by surfing, brah? Mahalo.

Fuck me, are you kidding?

Surfing might be the most non-uniting sport on Earth. Every time you paddle out, you are essentially walking into a bar crowded with dudes, and attempting to cock block each and every one of them in order to hook up with the one or two hot chicks that showed up that night. Unless you find yourself in that rare situation of paddling out at a spot with more waves than people, surfing is the antithesis of a sport that unites people.

Too many people, not enough waves. That's it. That's the single most critical feature of our favorite pastime. It's what drives and shapes our entire surfing culture. Be it localism, or surf movies, or travel, it all stems from our NEED to get MORE of what there ISN'T ENOUGH OF.

And yet in order for the industry to continue to move forward, to sell more boards, to entice more beginners, we have to perpetuate this myth that surfing is a come one, come all, party on the beach.

Let me ask you a question. What do you know about Andy Irons? You probably know that he's from Hawaii. You probably know that he has a brother named Bruce. And, undoubtedly you know that he's won two world titles and that he freakin' RIPS.

But that's it. Did you know that he's an asshole and a bit of a thug? Did you know that he's an idiot and can barely read? Did you know that he has seven felony convictions for molesting Collies?

Okay, that's only partially true. The point is that if it was true, you wouldn't know it. This is the TWO TIME WORLD CHAMPION and you don't know anything about him. What do you know about Kelly Slater? I've been following Kelly Slater's career for almost 20 years and I don't know shit about him. How is that possible? I know everything about Barry Bonds...his upbringing, his father, his family, his skeletons, you name it.

You see, the surf industry is structured completely different from other sports because it's the makers of the equipment we use, that completely drive the entire industry. You don't know shit about the top pro surfers because it is absolutely CRITICAL to driving business that you know only what their sponsors want you to know about them.

If little Timmy in Riverside discovers that most of his surfing heroes would probably scream at him to "fuckin' SPLIT" if he paddled out at their home break, he might decide to just ask for tickets to the Lakers game and not ask Mom and Dad for that new Ultimate Elasto for Christmas.

We can illustrate this nicely by comparing surfing to other sports. The key difference is that most other sports are spectator-driven. Fans watch baseball...they don't actually play it. So in turn, they don't give a shit what type of bat Barry Bonds uses to whack ball after ball into McCovey cove.

At the same time, professional baseball also pays really really well. Bonds makes close to $20 million a year. Even a semi-competent relief pitcher will pull in a couple of million a year, just sitting in the bullpen and facing maybe 2-4 batters a game.

So Barry Bonds doesn't care about selling bats. He makes tons of cash just doing what he does, and even if he did decide to sell bats, we probably wouldn't care anyway, because we don't need a new baseball bat. His only focus, his only goal, is to hit the shit out of the ball and win games. And as long as the Giants win games, we the fans are happy and we'll pay to go to the ballpark and drink $8 beers.

Unfortunately, that's not how surfing is set up. If Andy Irons won every fucking contest he entered, he'd probably pull in a couple hundred thousand in prize money. A nice chunk of change, but that's complete dogshit for a professional athlete who's the best of the best. Plus, he's not going to win every contest he enters. He'll be incredibly lucky if he wins half.

Which brings us back to sponsorship. In other sports, sponsorship is a luxury. It's something you can do in addition to playing your sport once you've made a name for yourself. It's an add-on...a bonus. And while Buick obviously cares about Tiger Woods' image and ensuring that consumers continue to like him, Buick doesn't drive the golf industry, nor does it drive Tigers' career.

If Tiger shoots his mouth off and says something incredibly stupid, the sports media is going to print it. Buick might threaten ESPN to back off a damaging story about their golden boy, but ESPN isn't going to listen. There are literally hundreds of thousands of potential advertisers to replace them if Buick cancels their spots. And even if it means potential short term revenue loss, the loss of journalistic credibility would be far worse.

Surfer magazine doesn't have that luxury. It's a small, incestuous industry dominated by a handful of companies who sell us the gear we surf with. If TransWorld Surf wants to run an article about how Sunny Garcia is a lowlife who yells at people and picks fights, they'd be in deep shit. A half dozen companies would pull their ads. That's massive. And what's TWS going to do? Suddenly do a focus group that says surfers are really picky about their teeth and go out and court Crest and Colgate to start running ads targeting surfers?

Forget it. Penetrating a new market takes shitloads of time and money. And even then you'll probably only land ONE new advertiser. I mean, it's not like Tide and Biz are going to start running competing ads in a single magazine.

You can also flip this around, which brings us back to surf gear and clothing manufacturers and the whole Bro/Brah network. Surfing brands appeal to only one and a half demographics - surfers and people who like the idea of surfing (the wannabes, to use a now semi-defunct term). They need the surf magazines because it's a niche market (you can't advertise removable fin systems in Entertainment Weekly), thus they're an easy ad sell.

Thus what you have is a nicely packaged, tight little industry, supported by a handful of trade magazines and related media. The magazines and movies are virtually inextricable from the industry. "Surf journalism" is therefore a virtual oxymoron, and nearly impossible to find. Everything the surf media does needs to promote the idea of a mostly idyllic subculture. Otherwise the sport won't grow, the companies won't increase revenue, they'll go under, and there will be no one left to fund contests and magazines and movies.

In other words, it's all bullshit. And because it's fluff, it's dogshit, too. Step Into Liquid is a perfect example. "Surfing is wonderful. Surfing is about sharing and loving nature. Surfing is freedom and Aloha and we're all one big tribe united by surfing. Tell your friends. Tell them to buy an Al Merrick and join the tribe."

If you think I'm just being cynical, then when you paddle out in HB this weekend...or Steamer Lane...or Ala Moana...or Bell's Beach...or Uluwatu...or wherever, think about it when that guy drops into the wave of the day and then eats it, and you curse him and yourself under your breath - him for fucking it up and you for not burning him while you had the chance. Or even when you first check the surf and you mumble under your breath about how there's "already fucking 30 guys on it".

And you know what? That's a good thing. As a matter of fact, it's a great thing. Recognize that surfing isn't what the media portrays it as. Admit it out loud. Admit it to your friends. Celebrate that surfing is a hard, frustrating, crowded sport.

Then, when you pick up the next issue of Surfing, you can say to yourself, "Wow, what a bunch of bullshit this is." Better yet, tell the editor. Tell the editor that you're sick of fluff. Tell Dana Brown that his movie is a glossy real estate brochure for Bullshitsurfville. Tell Evan Slater to grow some balls and do an expose on the North Shore and how it's infested with drugs, alcoholism, and asshole locals that resemble gang members. Tell Jack McCoy that his last movie was just "okay" and that the world needs a REAL documentary on the realities of the pro tour.

More Alan Weisbecker. More Daniel Duane. Less interviews with "Wardo" about how he thinks he's ready to make a serious move on the WCT and, oh, "I had a kid when I was 19 but let's not talk about that, it's all goood, bro."

Let's do this and bring some reality into our lives. We don't need this fluff. Surfing is a wonderful sport - we wouldn't suffer through the many negative aspects if it wasn't. We're in denial. And once we start acknowledging all the fucked up aspects of our sport, we can start doing two great things.

1. We can start really appreciating the parts that are genuinely great. You need the juxtaposition of good and bad to recognize and celebrate the good. 2 hours of watching Shane Dorian do impossible things in perfect waves in perfect weather is only going to make your next session in Oceanside slop feel even worse. Shitty waves in shitty conditions can be really fun if you don't have Step Into Liquid playing over and over in your head.

2. We can start FIXING the parts of our sport that are fucked up. Localism, journalism, sexism....whatever. If we all pretend that we're a big happy tribe, bro-ing out with Flea and Laird, brah, then we'll never fix the fact that virtually every popular surf spot is rife with bad vibes and even worse manners.

Step into reality, bro. Your next great wave will be that much better. Promise.

The Colonel says, "At ease."

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Skimming Down to Laguna

I never noticed when skimboards stopped appearing at the beach. Did you?
 
I mean, one day skimboarding was marginally cool...just sort of a common mid-80's beach accessory. Whether you were down at 26th St. in Santa Cruz, or Mission Beach in San Diego, skimboards were just AROUND. Every once in a while you'd even see a little local news bit on this "fast growing sport" and they'd show you funny footage from some cove in Laguna Beach of guys slamming into the shorebreak and doing these head-over-heels flips into the air.
 
To be honest, I do actually remember making my own skimboard once. My buddies and I all had our Dads buy us pieces of plywood, which we cut into crooked egg shapes and then sanded for 4 days straight. We stuck on a few Quiksilver stickers and then painted on layer after layer of Verethane, which never really dried completely. I recall waxing it up anyway, dragging it down to the beach, spending an hour trying to snap my wrists, and then finally dragging it home and abondoning it behind the work shed in our backyard, where it sat for years accumulating leaves and twigs which adhered to it's permanently tacky finish.
 
That's it. That's all I remember. One day skimboards were around, the next they weren't. I don't think I've seen a skimboard in ten years. And even then it was probably just some kid from Michigan visiting his grandparents by the beach, who happened to find the abondoned skimboard in THEIR backyard.
 
So this weekend my wife and I left the little man with my Dad, and stayed at a nice little B&B in Laguna Beach. The beaches in Laguna are a LOT nicer than the beaches in Huntington, so we decided to do the full beach weekend - get up early, pack a bag, pick a nice little cove, and spend the entire day laying around, reading trash novels, and maybe doing a little body whomping.
 
(Quick FYI, for those of you without kids, you need to understand that the aforementioned scenario is impossible with a toddler. A trip to the beach with a toddler is rather short and violent. You get to the beach, pin the kid down WWF style, attempt to cover him in sunblock, let him up, and then spend the next 45 minutes chasing him in and out of the water. When he finally starts shivering, you dry him off, attempt to brush some of the sand from his face, check his diaper for poo - which is amazing when mixed with sand - and then spend another 45 minutes chasing him from stranger to stranger, as he runs from towel to towel, comandeering anything that isn't nailed down or, God forbid, actually belongs to him. When you finally give in to exhaustion or just don't have the will to pry yet another gunky, sand-encrusted Cheetos wrapper out of his hand, you drag him home and thus ends your trip to the beach.)
 
Anyhow, there we were are at this amazing little cove in Laguna. It doesn't even matter which one - they're ALL amazing. Maybe I've just spent too much time in Huntington staring at the smoke stacks and oil rigs. I don't know. All I do know is that every beach in Laguna looks like Carmel Beach, only warmer and with hotter chicks. And while there's only one Carmel Beach in Carmel, there are like a hundred of them in Laguna.
 
So here I am, getting out of the perfect blue-green trasluscent water after a really fun half hour body whomp (in HB the water ranges from red to gray to dark green), and as I start trudging up the sand back to our little beach basecamp, two bodies go whizzing past me, one from the left, one from the right. "How funny, " I think. "Skimboarders...haven't seen those in a while."
 
Then I look up, and there, along the high tide ridge, are like 15 skimboarders...all lined up and spaced apart like some kind of Civil War skirmish line, each one waiting their turn.
 
Then I look up and down the beach. They're EVERYWHERE. The entire beach is covered with little dudes, big dudes, old dudes, young dudes with Volcom mesh trucker hats...all carrying skimboards.
 
Even my wife noticed. "Hey," she said. "I didn't know people still skimboarded. Is it coming back?"
 
"I don't think so, " I said. "It must just be a...a Laguna thing...I guess."
 
And there it was. Part time warp, part Island of Misfit Surfers. In Laguna, skimboarding is still HUGE.
 
But guess what? That's not all. Skimboards aren't the only toys still alive and well. The next day we went to a different cove. Just as beautiful, just as perfect for body whomping, and just as packed with skimboarders. Only this time, the skimboarders had brought friends...boogie boarders, body surfers with little hand things, and SURFERS riding FOAM BZ BOARDS.
 
"So what," you might ask. "I see 50 million kooks at my beach renting BZ foam boards every goddamn weekend and dragging them across PCH by the leash, and then paddling out and getting in everyone's way and just stinking up the place and annoying the shit out of everyone. "
 
Difference here is that these guy KILL IT.
 
Huh? What?
 
You heard right. There's this whole scene in Laguna of guys surfing semi-closed-out shorebreak on BZ foam boards. And they all surf great. They pull into pits breaking in two feet of sand, grab their rails, get shacked out of their gourds, slam onto the beach, and then paddle out and do it again.
 
And why the fuck not? Those knuckleheads who surf Waimea shorbreak or the Wedge on their shiny new shaped boards, are just asking to either kill some poor bodysurfer, themselves, or at the bare minimum, snap a $400 surfboard into about 7 pieces.
 
These guys in Laguna got it going on. By 2 PM the water is packed with people, and so is the water's edge. And everyone is riding waves, in some form or another. And there isn't a traditional surfboard to be seen anywhere.
 
That's it. I don't really have a clever way to tie this all into something more meaningful. Laguna Beach is just this trippy, beautiful, cool little town that clearly has its own thing going on. In contrast to Hardcore Huntington, or any other surf town with a polarized view of riding waves, it was especially cool to see.
 
So if any of you feel like retrieving that old skimboard that's been decaying behind your work shed for 10 years, give me a shout. We'll head down to Laguna, grab a lobster burrito at Taco Loco, and go play in the ocean.
 
Leave your surfboard at home.


Thursday, July 15, 2004

A Stroll Down Memory Trail

Today was just one of those rare days when HB felt like paradise.
 
The sun is out, it's hot (prolly 80+ degrees), the water is warming up (67 or so), the winds stayed light through the early afternoon, and we had a fun, peaky south swell rolling in.
 
Grabbed the 6'6" Chuck Dent for the first time in a few weeks and paddled out around noon. Crowded, of course, but with peaks popping up pretty much up and down the beach. The sets were shoulder high and super fun but really inconsistent, however the little insiders were so peaky it didn't even matter. I actually burned my feet a bit walking across the sand and that hardly ever happens here thanks to the wind.
 
Right now I'm sitting here at my desk enjoying that salty, just-surfed-in-your-trunks feeling. The bottom of my feet are a bit sore...reminds me a bit of all those summer days walking down to Black's in SD.
 
I remember once one of my buddies walked down the road to Black's and burned his feet so bad that some guy ended up CARRYING HIM ON HIS BACK all the way back up. Think about that for a minute. I mean, this guy ain't exactly Jim Hogan...he's 5'10" and probably 175. Apparently he tried laying his t-shirt down on the ground and sort of standing/hopping up the hill. I'm guessing that would have taken him about 4+ hours and fucked his feet even worse than they already were (big, fat, oozing blisters...ugh!). So some guys sees him and is just like, "Dude, get on my back" and just Vietnam style carries him up through the rice paddies to the chopper. 
  
A word to the wise (and to unintentionally continue this 'Nam metaphor) - when it's hot and sunny and you ain't got any shoes, take the Ho Chi Mihn Trail. It's sketchy and precarious and you might get a bee sting or ding your board, but it's much kinder on your feet than the road which, even when it's cool outside, is still tough on anything but Hobbit feet.
 
Since I'm on the Black's trail topic, here are my Top 5 most interesting trail moments at Black's Beach (a 30-45 minutes roundtrip process, regardless of which trail you take, unless of course you're one of those spoiled fuckers with a key).
 
Anyhow, here we go...
 
5. This was probably mid-1995 and I had my huge retro 70's Rob Machado afro sprouting out of my head (we were the only two surfers in SD County at the time sporting the real deal...oh yeah, except for my buddy Rich, he had one too). So I'm walking down the Ho Chi Mihn and we get to that scrub bushy part right before the crazy trenches in the sand stone, and there are tons of these super-sized bumblebees flying around. Anyhow, of course, one of the bees lands on my head, which had actually happened to me before, but with no problems. This time, however, it gets trapped in the fro. I panic and start trying to fish it out and only end up smooshing it into my scalp. It stings me and by the time I get tot the water I've got a golf ball sized bump on my noggin.
 
4. This was in the late 90's, probably the point in my life when I was doing the least amount of surfing. I was living in Norcal, being a dot-com workaholic,  and was visiting my in-laws in Newport. So I take my shitty, yellowed 1994 Sharp Eye which I kept in my mother-in-law's garage, and drove my rental car down to SD to surf Black's with my buddy (same guy who burned his feet). Anyhow, I also had this shitty Victory comp wetsuit that was falling apart..including the key pocket inside. So, of course, being a dumb ass, I put the rental car key in the key pocket. I'm one of those guys who also likes to shed the top half of his suit before I even get out of the water, so I pull the top down, rinse off in the shorebreak and, of course, look and see that the key has fallen out. FUCK. Bottom line is that my buddy, being the giant whipped pussy he is, decides he can't be late for his family BBQ and he fucking LEAVES me at the pay phone at the top of the hill, trying to call a locksmith, as well as the rental car company. I spend 3 HOURS in my shitty wetsuit with my shitty, yellowed Sharp Eye, waiting for a locksmith to break into my car and mold me a new key. This is especially relevent to Black's if you've ever tried to give someone directions to the trail head...especially someone from Chula Vista.
 
3. Really early 90's and I was going to SDSU and living in South Mission. My newly divorced Dad had come to visit with some of his bachelor buddies for a middle-aged boyz trip to SD. I thought it would be fun to take them to Black's for some body whomping, as well as for the thrill of hiking down the Ho Chi Mihn. So as we're piling out of the car, it occurs to me that we look pretty fruity - a young guy with three older gentlemen wearing Teva sandals and elastic waistband trunks. And, as luck would have it, two hardcore Mission Beach types drive by in their raised black truck and scream, "PIRATES!!!" Luckily my Dad and his buddies had no idea what that meant and laughed and started talking like pirates - "Arr, matey." I, on the other hand, was horrified and pretty much wanted to keep my distance for the rest of the day, lest anyone else think I was part of a marauding band of fruity butt pirates.
 
2. One of those classic summer afternoons. A bunch of us were living by SDSU, taking summer school, and we all piled in my Volkswagon bus after morning classes and rolled down for an afternoon paddle. Anyhow, on the way back up my bro, Josh - who, just for the record, is still totally insane and completely aggro - sees a small rattlesnake relaxing in the iceplant. Being, well, Josh, he picks it up with the tip of his surfboard and starts poking it at people. We scatter up the sides of the trail and, as he's trying to poke someone on higher ground, the snake starts to slide down the deck of his board. He yelps, drops his board, and both the stick and the snake go tumbling down the hill. Jackass...before there was Jackass.
 
1. Okay, this last one doesn't involve the trail, but more of a whole session at Black's. In my mind it's just one of those indelible surfing memories from my college days. It was probably April, and a really warm spell had just arrived out of the blue. It was hot and sunny and the water was probably 72 degrees. A whole crew of us from SDSU decided to get in a late afternoon session. About 7 or 8 guys piled into my bus with shortboards, longboards, the whole deal. Few other cars, too. Must have been 12 of us who paddled out, all just hooting and heckling and just stoked to not be on the sweltering hot SDSU campus. And as obnoxious as we all were, this one guy, Scott (I don't use last names, but if you're a local Mission or PB guy, trust me, you know him...he's one of a kind) was just out of control. He's a big guy, and had these big sideburns, and he's wearing these jean shorts and riding this big ol' log. And on every wave he's standing straight up, raising his fist up in the air, Hitler youth style, and screaming at the top of his lungs, "SCHNELL!!!" Look, I'm part Jewish, and I know...that's NOT funny. But, dude, seriously...if you had been there, you'd havebeen laughing as hard as we were. Every damn wave, standing straight up, hand in the air, screaming, "Schnell! SCHNEEEEELLLLLL!!!!!!"
 
As if you couldn't tell, I love summer. My summers in SD were fantastic. And on days like today, HB feels almost as good. Can't wait to get back in the water tomorrow...maybe even an evening session tonight.
 
The Colonel says, "Schnell" and "Watch out for snakes and bumblebees".
 
At ease.



Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The Frog and the Log

Back in HB today. Beautiful day. Lugged the log down to 6th St. again...this time around 11 AM. Looks like they're already staging for the US Open, unless there's another quick and dirty event beforehand. Then again, it seems like there's almost always some sort of event either being set up or torn down.

For those of you that don't know Huntington real well, the boarwalk does this funny cul-de-sac thing on the beach just a few steps from the parking lot at 6th St. Anyhow, that's where most of the events do their staging - they pile up the scaffolding, bring the trucks in and out, the laborers eat their lunch and flirt with chicks on the beach, etc.

Considering how it's sort of ground zero for beach traffic, they actually do a surprisingly good job of not getting in everyone's way. Then again, the bike racks I park at are right behind it, and more than once I've been fumbling with my lock as some 18 wheeler slowly and steadily backed up towards me. Kind of like that scene in Halloween where Michael Meyers is slowly walking across the street towards Jamie Lee Curtis while she panics and fumbles with her keys, trying to unlock her front door.

So far so good though...no run-over boards or mangled bikes, nor have I had to stab anyone in the neck with a coat hanger. Yet.

Waves today were pretty fun. Pretty much the usual knee to waist high crumbly walls, but maybe a few more sets than on Monday. Slid into a few fun peaks and even connected a few on the inside. Water is still chilly, but it's so warm and sunny out that I don't think anybody cares. Can't be more than 65 degrees, but everyone's out in springers and trunks.

Not exactly a ton of interesting characters out. Couple of older construction types with tats on longboards. Few 12 year old towheads having trouble getting to their feet, but then trying to do vertical backside smacks and tailslides. I'm not sure about other places, but that's a really common sight in HB. You see these kids and they can't paddle very well. They take off on waves and look like those newborn foals...wobbly legs and all...but then the next thing you know they're boosting an air on the inside. Amazing. Can I flip that around? "Man, I sure can't bust an air, but damn if I can't paddle and takeoff like a motherfucker. And you should really see me duck-dive..."

BTW, if anyone is in the market for a wetsuit top, take my advice - make sure it fits really really snug. I know, they say that about all wetsuit products. However, your fullsuit isn't going to blow up around your torso every time you fall off your log if it's a half size too big.

I know this because I have this piece of shit ProLite wetsuit top that I bought as reef protection for my first Indo trip 3 years ago. Why the fuck I bought a ProLite ANYTHING other than a boardbag is beyond me. Probably because it's black and looks cool and the inside is coated with this slippery slick skin stuff, so it's really easy to get on and off. Anyhow, that same slippery shit is also what causes it to stay permanently wedged up around my armpits and forcing me to sit up after every wave and pull it back down (not only is that totally annoying, but it's not exactly keeping me warm either).

So anyway, this afternoon I drove over to the Frog House in Newport to pick up a new one that actually works. On the way home I was wondering why I drive all the way to Newport to go to a surf shop. I mean, shit, I live in "Surf City", man. I live 6 blocks from two of the biggest surf shops on the planet - Jack's and Huntington Surf & Sport. The conclusion I came to is that I hate those fucking places. It's like shopping at the mall, only instead of 20 year-old girls from Irvine working the counter, you've got hordes of pimply faced little twerps with New York rock band hair, skulking around with backstage passes around their necks (what the fuck are those things? ID badges? changing room keys? fin keys for a quick paddle-out on their coffee break?), asking me, "Hey bro, can I help you find anything?" Yeah, bro, you can help me find you a job application for McDonalds which is where surly, pimply-faced 16 year-olds should be working in the first place.

This isn't to say those big surf shops don't have good stuff. It's just that there's too much stuff. Too many people, too many customers, too many employees, too many fucking mesh trucker hats, too many NBA style tank tops, too many Roxy half shirts, too many faded retro Ezekiel t-shirts...just too much shit.

There's just something about the Frog House that I really like. It's a REAL surf shop (Chuck Dent in HB is real, but it's too real...they got boards and, well, pretty much just boards). The Frog House has everything you need, for anything. They've got a ton of boards, a ton of wetuits, all the accessories and videos and even a good selection of clothes. It's cramped but nicely organized. Actually, have you ever looked at the building itself? It's TINY. Reminds me of that old Popeye cartoon where Popeye's in the desert and Bluto has taken Olive Oyl captive in this tiny little sheik style tent. Popeye pokes his head in and inside it's like this massive palace with waterfalls, palm trees and marble staircases. That's totally the Frog House.


Plus, how many surf shops have you been to where the owner is hanging out, ringing up your purchases? Once I was there and this young guy was lurking behind the counter trying to order sandwiches for lunch while I just stood there with my stuff, waiting to pay. The owner walks up to him and just goes, "What are you doing??? How about doing some work first...we've got customers trying to give us money and you're on the phone ordering sandwiches."

The Colonel's kind of guy, for sure.

At ease.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

You'll never hear surf music again...again.

I'm in San Francisco today, so there will be no surf report. I did check Surfline though and, well, it looked pretty much like it looked yesterday.

Right now my wife and kid are at some free concert-in-the-park thing where they play, of all things, surf music. Sounds like fun...kind of like Corky playing at Duke's during the summer, minus the ass-faced 40-somthing leather-faced chicks and fat fucks in Tommy Bahama shirts getting hammered on Corona. But anyhow, it got me to thinking, "Just what the hell is surf music anyway?"

There's the obvious answer - Dick Dale style instrumental "Wipe Out" guitar music. Fine, like Huntington Beach suing for the rights to "Surf City", this funky music from the 60's has somehow earned the official moniker of "Surf Music", even though, by all rights, no actual surfer under the age of 40 has listened to this stuff in 40 years.

What about music that surfers actually listen to? That's a tough one. If you've watched a surf video in the past 10+ years, you'd probably be tempted to say, "Dude, punk...fuckin' Pennywise, fuckin' Guttermouth, fuckin' whatever 3 chord pop-punk wonder Fat Mike threw out on CD and colored vinyl this week."

And you wouldn't be wrong. But I'm prepared to call bullshit anyway.

You see, surfing has spent the last decade going through a toughening up period. Black wetsuits, big waves, tattoos, big raised trucks, wallet chains, and punk fuckin' rawk, man. Suddenly we're all badasses. And if you're under 24, well, kind of like the kid out in the water wearing the Volcom trucker hat yesterday, I'm pretty sure you're just a pussy trying to look tough, but I can't prove it. Who knows? Maybe your dad is Hollerin' Hank Rollins and you grew up reciting the words to How Could Hell Be Any Worse? and you really are a tough-as-nails-badass, and always have been.

However, for the rest of us...I'd just like to refresh everyone's memory a little bit.

First off, I can recall about two dozen surf flicks from the 80s - everything from Jack McCoy's Storm Riders in the real early 80's, to Bill Delaney's Surfers: The Movie from 1990. And with maybe just a couple of exceptions, NONE of them had any punk music in them. As a matter of fact, most of them had the opposite of punk - either cheesy instrumental reggae-esque porno music (no budget), no name Australian pop-rock bands (some budget), or big name "new wave" bands, like Men At Work, U2 or even Frankie Goes to Hollywood (big budget).

As a matter of fact, the only films I can recall that had anything even slightly resembling punk, were the Runman videos...and let's not fucking kid ourselves, those things were fringe. WAY fringe. Hell, they made CKY2K look positively mainstream (although, interestingly enough, CKY2K eventually begat Jackass, which DID become mainstream, so there you go). Well, okay, there was Billabong's Filthy Habits, but that was only marginally punk and felt more like whiskey-driving hard rock...plus it was only a couple of years removed from Momentum, so the tide was finally changing.

Speaking of Momentum, even Taylor Steele, the godfather of merging surfing with punk rock, was a late-comer. His very first film, Seaside and Beyond, was full of Motley Crue songs if I recall correctly.

I guess I just find it funny how quickly we all forget what a bunch of pink-motifed bunch of pussies we used to be. Did everyone just wake up one morning and decide we were now going to be black-wearing tough guys? Did we all burn the photos of us wearing flipped-up painters cap perched atop our bleached hair? Pastel-colored Gotcha madras shorts? Pato Banton tapes?

And don't lie to me about Dead Kennedy LPs...that's what skaters listened to. You were singing in the shower to Duran Duran.

Okay, enough nostalgic beration from the Colonel. You can put your neon pink Peggers back in the closet, hide your Amazing Surf Stories video tape, and put your spiked leather belt back on and continue your charade as hardcore punk surfer guy.

But don't ever forget...the Colonel knows who you really are.

At ease.

Monday, July 12, 2004

2nd Tour of Duty Begins...

Okay, so I think its been a little over a year since we moved to HB. But I pretty much haven't been in the water since getting back from Indo in early June (Bali burnout, if you will) and today really seems like the first genuine summer day we've had. So let's just make the call - July 12th - as the beginning of another tour in Huntington.

Weather-wise it was sunny this morning...a bit of a rarity here by the beach, even in July. It was never dead glass, I don't think, but it never got super windy either (paddled out at around noon). Saturday was gale force onshore shit...Sunday was calm almost all day...go figure.

Paddled out on the longboard todday. It's a bitch lugging that thing down to the beach on my bike, even with the racks. Then again, the racks are still bent and fucked up from when Keith crashed it. So basically I have to ride with one hand and kind of hold the tail up with my other hand...otherwise you can just see it trying to scrape the ground after each bump.

So anyhow, parked on the beach at 6th street. Typical summer weekday with tons of little groms running around with their red Jr. Lifeguard trunks and bike helmets with the straps undone. Not to digress, but has anyone else noticed this? It's funny, no matter what parents try to do to get their kids to wear bike helmets, it never quite works. I had a few buddies in elementary school (early 80's) whose moms made them wear helments. Well, I guess "wear" is the wrong word. They made them "bring" their helmets with them...which is to say, my buddies would leave the house, put their helmets on, get on their bikes, wave and smile at mom in the window, and then, half a block away would either take the helmet off and hang it on the handlebars, or get rid of it altogher by stashing it in a bush. Obviously other adults noticed this, so now it's a LAW that all kids under 18 have to WEAR a bike helmet. Unfortunately, no where in the law does it say the helment has to be STRAPPED on (kind of a key part of helmet functionality, don't you think?) In over a year, I have yet to see a single kid on a bike with his helmet strapped on. I love kids.

Back to surfing, the waves were pretty much typical mid-day, summer OC. Lot of knee-high cumbly closeouts. Every 20 minutes or so a few nice outside peaks would pop up, maybe chest high. Fucking crowded as ever. Must have been 30-40 bodies wedged into the north side of the pier. Things spaced out a bit the further north you went, as usual, but it was still pretty much Hands Across HB.

Didn't really recognize anyone out in the water...a few heads here and there that looked like they could be familiar. Fleshy man-child was out though. This kid has the size and build of an adult, but has the face and baby fat of a 14 year old. Real salty, slackjawed face...like a lot of HB kids, just looks kind of angry all the time. Normally I've seen him ride a longboard and he's fairly good. Mostly I remember him from some super flat days last winter on the south side of the pier. He and his buddy were paddling out as I dropped into the wave of the hour on my Dewey Weber longboard that a good friend had just given me for Christmas. I just remember him screaming from the shoulder, "Ride the NOSE, man!"

Fuckin' A...I can barely steer this thing and this kid is heckling me to go hang a few toes. I probably pearled. Anyhow, today the kid was riding a big fish...actually looked like a lot of fun. Big thick rails, twin fin...reminded me of Glenn's "Way Back Machine".

First few waves today were a bit sketchy. Getting back into the water after not surfing for a couple of weeks is tough. Kind of like getting your sea legs back I guess. After a half hour or so though I got back into the groove. Few late takeoffs. Few nice peaky sets. Got hooted at by another geezer on a log. This guy was cracking me up...had trunks, a vest, gloves, and a knee brace on. Plus, he had this big, powerlifter, stinkbug stance. Every wave he'd drop in backside, legs spread like he was getting frisked, race to the shoulder and then just power a big turn. Not pretty to watch, but he was having fun. Plus, he hooted my wave...and he was a geezer...so I liked him.

It was this one kid though that really cracked me up today. Let me preface by saying that in the past few years its become fashionable amongst the kids to go anti-gear. That is to say, go retro and instead of, say, wearing an expensive Volcom rashguard, they wear a baggy t-shirt out in the water. So the latest trend is hats. Not the goofy floppy Indo hats with chin straps that are MADE to go surfing in (there's that chin strap thing again), but baseball caps. Now, granted, it's always been somewhat fashionable to wear a not-made-for-surfing hat in the water. No one will admit it, but it's not really for sun protection either. Sunblock is just too effective and simple to cause someone to go, "Dammit, this shit ain't working...I need a HAT!" No, the hat tells other surfers, "I am good enough that I don't need to worry about falling and losing my hat, which isn't made for surfing and might easily fall off. Surfing is my thing, mate, and I can do all kinds of tricks whilst wearing this silly hat. Check me out."

So these two kids out in the water are wearing Volcom baseball hats. The first kid, well, I see him and think to myself, "Okay, it's noon...it's sunny...and while I'm pretty sure you're just trying to look cool, I can't prove it." Then I see his buddy. His buddy is also wearing a Volcom trucker hat, but his is OFF TO THE SIDE. Y'know, Ashton Kucher style? I mean, he's not even pretending his hat is to keep the sun off. But you know what? That's cool. I mean, I think he looks like a retard...as does everyone in the partially sideways trucker hat (which, despite what the surf shops say, actually got popular amongst surfers in the mid-90's and I'm thoroughly sick of it), but at least this kid is coming clean. The hat isn't for sun protection...this hat is to say to the world, "I surf real good...and I will do tricks...and my hat will not fall off."

Okay, so next summer I'm making the call - Vans slip-ons. Preferably the red and blue two-tones and not the black and white checkered ones, which have already been done to death, even in a retro sense. And please, these are not to be confused with Nike Aqua Socks. If you remember those, smile, and never speak of them again. Speak neither of OP lycra shorts, the O'neill "Animal", or iridium Oakley Blades (BTW, just how did those go from de-facto surf star shades to the specs of choice for mullet-wearing white trash so quickly?) I still, however, have a soft spot in my heart for Oakley Frogskins...the clear ones, with the purple lenses.

Bottom line, a typical summer day in HB. Gone to SF tomorrow, but will be back on Wednesday.

The Colonel says, "At ease".