Friday, April 29, 2005

The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks

I'm going to admit something right now. All I ask is that you hold tight and keep reading. It's not as bad as you might think at first. Really.

Okay, here goes...

In college I was in a fraternity.

Still with me? You haven't shut your browser in disgust and purged your bookmarks of anything with "charlie," "surfs," or "colonel" in the title?

Thank you. Now here's why it wasn't what you think...

This was not your average San Diego State frat. There were no Dave Matthews baseball caps. No one did keg stands. We didn't have toga parties. And no one ever leaned out of a 2nd story window and yelled, "PARTEEEEE!" unless it was pure sarcasm.

We were a house of surfers. And not just a bunch of San Diego boys from Clairmont either. I'm talking a who's who of California rippers (one semester, sick of having no awards to display for prospective members - grades and traditional sports weren't really our forte' - one of the guys filled an entire room with his WSA and NSAA trophies).

Okay, and there were a few wannabes, like me...but hey, even our house needed a little variety.

And it's amazing, as I've gotten older the "Industry Notes" in Surfer Magazine has started to resemble an alumni newsletter. Various higher-ups at Volcom. Top reps at Hurley, Quiksilver & Sector 9. One of the hosts of Bluetorch and 54321. The original publisher of and former publisher of Snowboarder. The list just seems to go on and on.

I'm starting to think my old fraternity was like the Skull and Bones of the surf industry. Even quintessential surfer post-sesh-grinds-staple, Wahoos Fish Tacos, was started by an old bro.

So why am I telling you this?

Because fraternities in general are usually filled with the kinds of guys I would never hang out with...and who would never be reading this blog. Over the years I've come to realize just how unique our organization was and what a cool twist on the whole frat thing it was. I mean, we had greek letters, did a whole initiation thing, hassled our pledges...but it was all done in our unique surfer way.

When I was a pledge, we kidnapped an older member (and current fixture at the South Mission Jetty) at 2 in the morning, made him drink two 40 oz. Mickey's, an entire jug of Gallo wine, stuck a blunt of killer weed in his mouth, and then covered him with sand and shaving cream. Where? Tied securely to the shack at Windansea. We tossed him a quarter and told him to watch out for the ghost of Butch Van Artsdalen.

That same semster, another older member kicked the door in during one of our pledge meetings. He was pissed and ready to get in someone's face. Why? Because someone had borrowed his new 6'2" Burke without asking and then put a buckle in the rail. (I got blamed, and hazed for the duration of the evening, and in return for my $150 in compensation, I got a slightly buckled Burke which I promptly snapped the next day at Baja Malibu.)

On Mondays, our weeky chapter meeting would always run short in the early Fall and late Spring, as every bro would sneak out the windows for a quick evening session before the sun went down.

Even our marquee party every semester, our "luau", which had co-eds from as far away as Santa Barbara rolling down for the event, was pure surf-culture. I can still think back to the view from the roof (where rows upon rows of bros would sit and heckle the kooks from the traditional frats who'd try to crash with their Gap button-down shirts and Timberland boots), and see the masses of Reyn Spooners and palm fronds and tan girls.

During the day, anyone who walked by the house could look up at any one of the 5 upstairs bedroom windows and see the walls bristling with rows and rows of boards, wetsuits hanging over every ledge.

I remember every Fall waiting to see which bro would get his shot on the rush poster, thereby laying claim to biggest ripper in the house...for a few months anyway.

And hey, we may have gotten our asses kicked in Inter-Fraternity Council football, but I don't think we ever lost an IFC Surfing title. Not once.

Granted, there were always a few straight guys in the house who looked at the surfing aspect of the fraternity as a hindrance.

"Straighten up," they'd say. "Why can't you guys live on campus instead of moving to South Mission? Why can't we bring in more football and baseball players instead of every 5'8" shrimp with a WSA jersey in his closet? And why do our grades always suck so bad? And for fuck's sake, QUIT SMOKING POT IN THE HOUSE!"

But we needed those guys, too. They kept the books, went to the IFC meetings, and most importantly, kept the National Headquarters from storming the house and beating everyone to death with pink Polo shirts. The best part though, was that most of them surfed, too. I remember one of the older guys would come back from his "one weekend a month" for the Army Reserve, with his high and tight military approved haircut, and hang up his combat boots, grab his board and paddle out as one of the boys.

In some respects I like to think of this as a bunch of surfers taking it to The Man. We entered the world of the soulless, backwards cap white boy, co-opted his fraternal organizational system, stole his women, and knocked him a few rungs down on the established social ladder.

Now, to be fair, one could easily make the case that this was more the case of the modern surfer conforming - the beach bum cleaning up his act, getting a haircut, moving out of his parents' house and becoming a lawyer. But I don't think so. The other houses hated us, except for the few that had a contingent of surfers as well - we'd hang with them. The sorority girls loved us, and yet so did the non-sorority girls. And, in a finale in the spirit of the blowout bash in Big Wednesday, we were finally kicked off campus after almost 50 years of bending, twisting, and breaking the rules.

Today, 10 years after the school attempted to scatter our sticks in the wind, we all still keep in touch. Well, not literally all of us. But via an extended network of emails, surf contests down in South Mission, summer camping in Mex, trips to Bali and elsewhere, we're a fairly tight group. There are probably very few of the 1200 or so brothers that I couldn't track down with a couple of emails or phone calls.

And while the National Headquarters of our organization would love to take the credit for providing the fraternal basis with which we forged our friendships, thereby lumping us in with date-raping dweebs from MIT to USC, they can't. For a significant percentage of us, surfing was the common bond that brought most of us together (whether it was 1969 or 1989), and it's what keeps us hanging out and staying in touch today.

So a big up to all the bros. As the last of us to enter the ranks now move steadily into our 30's, I'm thoroughly enjoying watching this group of former misfits, rippers, shredders, and hell-raisers, continue to live the surfing life as they enter middle-age and beyond.

And to the college boys who are currently resurrecting our house on the SDSU campus after a 10 year absence, I'll raise a cold 10 oz, thick-glassed, Baja-recycled Pacifico to you, too. I hope you succeed, and I hope you carry on the surfing tradition.

After all, we don't want any frat boys in our fraternity.

The Colonel says, "Load him".

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Surfing...The Ads

I'm in advertising. It's what I've done for a living for close to 10 years. I started out doing copywriting for the 2nd ever GRAMMY Awards webcast, way back in '96.

(BTW, for those of you that don't know - and after 10 years of cocktail party small talk, I know there are a lot of you - "copywriting" means "writing copy", not trademarking things, i.e. "copyrights". Oh, and "copy" simply means material, i.e. content, for an article, novel, or advertisement...basically it means "words". And here endeth the lesson.)

For the months leading up to the awards show, and then live from backstage, we streamed audio, video, content, and promotional Recording Academy ads to a worldwide audience, of which about 10 people were actually equipped to receive streaming media. Backed by Apple's now long defunct, "Macintosh Music Network", and hemorrhaging cash in a fit of first-mover frenzy, we were way, WAY too early.

From there my career zig-zagged through the entire cycle of the Dot Com daze, including a 6 1/2 year stint at Yahoo! as an in-house creative director, spewing out ad banners, print ads, and splash pages by the Webvan-full.

Today I'm at an old school, Big 5, Madison Avenue ad agency.

How old school? During the summer, everyone gets to leave at noon on the NY folks can beat the traffic to the Hamptons. Not kidding.

It's a fairly odd route for a former surfer-punk-rocker-cum-rock-critic who fell in with the GRAMMY Awards and learned how to write ad copy, but what the hell - it pays for the new boards.

Anyhow, if I haven't bored you to tears yet with this indulgent resume-lite retrospective, I thought today I'd walk through the pages of Surfing Magazine, one ad at a time. After all, the ads are half the fun in our favorite glorified trade magazines.

And, if we still have the chutzpah, maybe in a later post we'll tackle Surfer and then maybe even the Surfer's Journal, just to see how the rags stack up.

So, if you care to follow along, please have the June 2005 issue of Surfing (B&W cover with orange logo....the "Special 400th Issue Collector's Edition) at the ready.

Listos? Bien...

- O'neill (inside front cover). Pretty cool inside-looking-out shot of Timmy Reyes in the barrel at Backdoor. Not sure the point of the white sponge print on the upper right-hand side, or the illegible copy on the lower right - "Touches You". What the fuck does that mean?

- Reef. Fred Patacchia doing a sick...what the hell do you even call that? And does it even matter? After all, there's the chick's ass, but then again, a shadow of her former self. Big thumbs down to Reef. Your ads may have been pointless and sexist (as Nigel would say, "But what's wrong with being SEXY?"), but at least they were unique. You stood out. Now that you've scaled back the ass, and superimposed some HOT SURFING ACTION - um, in sepia tone, no less - you've simply conformed and now stand for nothing.

- 2nd Reef ad. This is better. Your new sandals have a pimped out material. First a cool close-up, then a nice clean shot of the "PIMPSLIDE". Clean, stylish presentation of a unique product with a unique, memorable name. Good job.

- Hurley. Ah, here we go...the current bread and butter of the surf industry. Ubiquitous sequence of guy (Pat O'Connell) in a barrel, and then a bunch of 10 years-too-late Volcom-esque, copycat, illegible scribbling. Pointless. Adds no street cred to Nike-owned megabrand. Lame.

- 2nd Hurley ad. A-ha! Redemption. Amazing, powerful pipe shot...pre-ejaculatory spit-out. Simple, sick. New logo, too.

- Billabong Pro Tahiti Contest. Pretty amazing 'Choaps shot of AI. Otherwise unremarkable spread. Logos, date, more bad sponge prints - this time gone Tahitian. Next time, let the image speak for itself and tell your art director to leave the tribal trim on the clipart CD where it belongs.

- 5 Pages Content

- Quiksilver. Ugh. Note to Quickie - if you're gonna promote the retro look, don't feature some peach-fuzzed little twerp who looks too young to drive a tractor. Show us the inspiration behind the retro, not the end result.

- 2nd Quiksilver ad. Same problem as before, this day-late-buck-short grasp at the retro bandwagon looks lifted straight from the McDonald's outtake bin. I'm not lovin' it.

- Rusty. Hmmmm...Kalani Chapman driving full bore down the reeling pipe stretch. Looks a bit like faux-content, with the white box and caption style copy. But I like it. Still a bit cluttered for my taste, but I like what they're attempting. Who he is->What he's doing it with->What's next?

- OP. I love these ads. OP has come back from the dead on the retro wave they helped invent in the first place. These WSJ-pencil-sketches-gone-psychedelic feel soulful and look fantastic. Their new tagline: "Original_Still" is simple and memorable. And Joel Tudor is the perfect spokesman.

- Globe...5 pages. "If One is Good, Two is Hobgood". Awful play on words and twins. Plus, twins are creepy. The Fiji contest ad on the 4th and 5th pages ia actually halfway decent, but the previous 3 pages discount Globe as overly enamored with their dynamic duo.

- XM. This ad may have actually been made using PowerPoint. Awful. The shot of the "who gives a shit" boardbag, circa 1994, with the "Now Available!" starburst is so lame it's almost funny.

- O'Neill. Horrendously ugly boardshorts. More sponge print. Tamayo Perry dropping into Pipe wearing, uh, different boardshorts. Zzzzz...

- RVCA Artist Network Program. Featuring a whole bunch of names, and some guy's scribbles from his Jr. High binder. Basquiat. NOT.

- Nixon. Oh man. Please, if you don't have your magazine out, go get it. If the death nell of sideways trucker hats hasn't yet rung, it just rang. I actually feel embarrassed for this woman. Interestingly enough, this is actually an ad for a watch/bracelet, featured at the bottom. Huh? Exactly.

- Rip Curl. Nice shot, but who cares? One nice subtle touch though is that the Rip Curl logo is at the exact same angle as the Rip Curl logo on Pancho Sullivan's board.

- Vans. Another shot. Another pointless trimming of doodles and "ripped edges". The only thing that elevates this ad is the closeup, "you are there" quality of the image. It actually makes a cluttered ad feel cleaner than it is.

- 2nd Vans ad. This one I like. Must be something with Joel Tudor. Stylish, leashless drop, and some fairly funky, colorful watercolor. This stands out.

- Cult. Just another fly-by-trend upstart brand trying desperately to not look uncool. The skull and bones sponge print on the upper right? Ooh. Hardcore, 4th grade art class style.

- Surf Diva. Um, not sure how to describe this ad other than there's just something creepy about those chicks. Like they might teach you to surf, then spout fangs and eat your brain.

- Ambiguous. "Okay, Russell, put on these hundred-dollar-a-pop retro-slob clothes and go stand next to something urban...okay, how about the storm drain? Great. Now don't laugh. I said, DON'T LAUGH!" Oh fuck it, tell the AD to add in a surf photo.

- DC. I always tell my clients, if you can, let your product speak for itself. This ad says, "DC is getting into the sandal game."Guess what? I think they'll sell. Nice work.

- Body Glove. Nothing has changed since the 80's. No matter how hard they try to be 'core, Body Glove will always be an outsider brand...even with Bruce Irons. Add this to an entire portfolio of sad attempts to be cool. The Variflex of wetsuits.

- ...Lost. I think ...Lost has done a fairly good job of carving out a unique niche with their sleazy cartoon style. Adding in the Wolf Pack smells a bit like overreaching, but who knows? The sheer randomness of this ad is a bit confusing though. I'd say stick with the cartoon bit. No one else has done it better.

- 5 pages of content

- Converse. The Chuck Taylor legends decided to target the surf demo a while back. Now they're going after the Frankenreiter subset. Personally I think CTs are iconic and shouldn't be fucked with, especially with anything as lame as hippie-endorsed-hemp. But it's kind of a cool design. I think a retro shot of Joey Ramone circa 1977 in his CTs would have been better, but I can enjoy this, too.

- Fuel TV. Slightly pervy take on the Yellow Submarine style. Too much damn copy though.

- Xcel. Not bad. The photo negative art direction has been done to death, but here for some reason it works. Justin Quirk stretching it out, combined with his spine-twisting air in the same suit is a nice, effective juxtaposition. Excel has taken their single best feature - flexibility - and supported it fairly well. The Dyson never loses suction, and Xcel suits are really flexible. Stick with it, guys.

- Dragon. Is it just me, or do all the pros in this ad look incredibly lame? I look at the cool factor here and I just ain't buying it. Impressive waste of an all-star cast.

- Fox. Racing brand still wants to go surfing. Nice cutback, Tyler, but who fucking cares?

- Life Rolls On. I'm bypassing this one.

- Addidas. Okay, now this is kind of clever. Traditional sports brand enters surf market. No explanation, just a bunch of retro-styled surf stickers, followed by "Hey Surfing, Happy 400th!". It might almost make you think Addidas has been around and sponsoring surf contests for decades. Very guerilla. And, I hate to say it, clearly the work of a professional agency. Thumbs up.

- Aaron Chang. One of the greatest surf photographers ever presents us with a 6-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other shot of some guy. Toss in some more pointless scribbles and a pair of generic looking boardshorts, and you have a remarkable photographer turned middle-of-the-road trunks peddler. Sad, kind of.

- Ezekiel. Great use of color. Why they stuck in that Polaroid shot though I have no idea. Remove it and you have a clean, stylish ad. BTW, Ezekiel's co-opting of the California Bear was positively fucking brilliant.

- Town and Country. Big wave. Big whoop. Note to T&C: Want to resurrect your brand? Go back to your 80's roots. Bring back the bright pinks and greens and all the crazy little characters. No one ever did it better, and the kids would go absolutely apeshit over repro's of those old t-shirts.

- Anti-Drug. I'm frequently impressed with the sales guys who can go out and wrangle an advertiser like this. However, as far as just-say-no ads go, this one ain't bad. She's kind of cute, too.

-Alpine Stars. I guess these guys make trunks. And, um, I guess Makua Rothman wears said trunks. Okay.

- Monument. YAVRO - Yet Another Volcom RipOff.

- Truth. Truth Productions make very clever ads. I question the placement. I also question their effectiveness. This ad made me want to type in though, and for a print ad, that's pretty damn good.

- DaHui. I despise this brand. This ad is awful and embarrassing and, hopefully, spells the downward spiral of a company that's just a few thousand nautical miles removed from "Crips Clothing".

- The Game. Cluttered, baffling ad. Note to Gerr: Do a single ad each month devoted to one of the 5 teams. Show off the logo, the team colors, and include some trash talk to the other cities. Get some fans and develop some alliances and rivalries. Think Major League Baseball.

- Vestal Watch. Dude, I know Moses parted the Red Sea, but who the fuck parted your hair?

- Dakine. Guy surfing. Picture of traction top. For crying out loud, does the same Art Director work at every surf company? For a sport of individuals, we sure look like a bunch of clones.

- Dakine. Lisa Anderson throwing big spray. Boring, but nice to see a chick carving and I like her orange board.

- FCS. The fact that the fin companies have gotten the average Joe spending extra money on fins is a coup in itself. I like this ad because it shows Jamie O'Brien twisting into a nasty cutback, with a great quote from Jamie really selling the hell out of his fins. All in all it's a good, hard, compelling sell. Granted, 95% of us couldn't tell the difference between carbon-fiber and carbon-paper, but that's what I like about this. Dyson says, "Suction matters." FCS says, "Fins matter." And we believe them.

-Adio. Is there just a machine somewhere in Costa Mesa where you input your logo and a picture of your product and it spews out one of these ads?

- 48 pages content.

- Volcom. Vol-cum, Vol-com...who cares? The once innovators have stalled out while the rest of the world caught up and copied the shit out of them. Now just another face in the crowd. Inevitable really, and fairly amazing they held onto their street-cred as long as they did.

- 16 pages content.

- RVCA. More scribbling on first encore from an earlier ad. Then Alex Knost hanging ten in a very clean, 60's style ad. Nice.

- SurfTech. A failed attempt at what Rusty managed to pull off fairly well in an earlier ad. Rockhold looks like a dweeb and Xanadu looks like he wants to buy you a beer in Hillcrest. Terrible logo (and name) to boot. This company is single-handedly keeping these amazing new board materials in the BZ Foam Board category. A shame.

- Sanuk. Hey, give these guys some credit for originality. These silly slapstick Photoshop jobs take the piss out of Donavan and always make me smile. That's huge.

- Gravity. I can just hear the product marketer going, "Look, can't we just add in the new line of boards down near the bottom of the page? We'll just bump the ad up by two inches. It won't compromise the integrity of the design at all. Promise, bro." Brilliant ad, horrifically compromised.

- Bink. "Fuel the Fire?" What a fucking tool. Whatever the fuck Bink is, they're lame.

- Channel Islands. When will they learn? No one wants to look at Kelly's face. He's stumbled his way through one too many talk shows and bad interviews. Remind us why he was/is the king. Only Curren maintains the mysto for a shot like this.

- Killer Dana. Hey, an old school shout out for a new school ad. We've got trunks, lot's of 'em! Come on down to for the biggest selection of boardshorts on the Web! Yee-haw!

- WRV. Nice drop. But what? You've seen it once...

- Surf Prescriptions. Pathetic rip-off of the American Express campaign. And this ad doesn't even make any sense. At least if you're going to steal, put it to good use.

- Santa Cruz. Anthony Tashnick!!! Anthony Tashnick what??? For some reasons though, I like the little barnacles with the faces drawn on them. Pointless, but fun.

- Sharp Eye. Marcio Zouvi used to shape my boards back in the early/mid 90's. I guess he's still around although this ad hardly makes me want to call him back up. So Julian Mullins can balance a Sharp Eye on his finger. So what? Can he spin a football? Pick his nose? Hang a spoon?

- 7S. Great shot of a cool, fun looking retro board, offset by a terrible, generic headline, "Isn't it time for a new board?" How about, "Holy shit this thing is fun."

-Aerialite. Ha. Old school "sex sells", traditional print ad. Exploitive, clean, and effective. I even read the 8 point copy.

- Flojos. Another ad made with PowerPoint by a Jr. Art Director with 2 semesters of "Commercial Design" at OCC under his belt. Oh, and that font. The worst design elements from the 80's, with none of the retro gaudiness. Might as well bring back the white rubber criss-cross sandals and call it a day.

- Anarchy. Hey Shane, take our logo down to the print ad machine in Costa Mesa. Don't forget a picture of Lopez. No, not that one, the other one. Cory.

- Carve. When PhotoShop goes bad. 5 points for the effort though.

- Jack's Surfboard. Huh, what happened? Sorry, I slept right through this ad.

- Surfco. Terrible, awful design, but brilliant use of gory photos to support product effectiveness. Very clever and slightly ballsy. And you gotta love that name. Can't you just picture the late night infomercials? "Folks, don't you just hate it when you take a fin in the eye?"

- Peppers, Bully's, Silverfish, X-Trak, LX Polarized. Quite possibly the first...and last time you will seen any of these companies in print again. Bullys actually lists their email Maybe they should open a store on Ebay while they're at it.

- No Fear. "Fear has killed more men than time." Oh, and it's an ad for watches. The red headed stepchild of surf brands is STILL HERE and STILL RUNNING TERRIBLE ADS. Gotta give the favorite brand of Riverside rednecks some credit for tenacity.

- Hurley. Wow, this tool almost makes the previous tool look less tool-like. Nikely continues its downward spiral into the inevitable rack at Target.

- Spy Optics. Cool logo, cool font, nice design...TERRIBLE picture of yet another awkward looking pro surfer with a horrendous Britpop coif.

- West. I like this ad. A pile of wetsuits, the name of their riders, and their logo. Simple, bold, colorful, and effective. Thumbs up.

- Von Zipper. I kind of like VZ's art director. Brian Pacheco looks real and stoked to be wearing his shades. The "off the page" copy has been done to death, but here it works. The whole ad feels authentic.

- Analog. Nice spread. Cool shot. Nice use of gray day. Great design. Bold, compelling headline that may or may not make any sense. I may just go to to find out. And thus, they have succeeded.

- DVS. Only an unbelievably clean tube ride elevates this ad. That's one hell of a straight line he's drawing. Maybe it's cuz he wears DVS sandals? Probably not, but maybe...

- Volcom (Back Cover). Christ almighty, guys. Time for a new schtick. We've seen it.

Wow, okay. That was a bit of an endeavor. Kind of fun though, don't you think?

The Colonel says, "Good design goes to heaven. Bad design goes everywhere."

Monday, April 18, 2005

Wind Blows

Grape soda rules.

Spring, on the other hand, is kind of lame. This spring especially has been cold and windy and kind of damp. It hasn't ever really gotten flat though, so we can add that to the grape soda side.

Last week we had a few interesting days of waves. Monday was the weirdest, which started out breezy and cold and gray - typical eddy conditions. But then, as it rolled into early afternoon, the S winds eased up, the water turned glassy, and a fairly juicy swell got a nice late grooming. By 4 PM there were perfect, bowling, overhead A-frames up and down the beach.

That's the good part. The bad part was that it was so criss-crossed and shifty that being in the right spot at the right time had way more to do with luck than anything else. The tide also started rolling in, which meant that, on top of warbly backwash, the waves were backing off a bit on the outside and then dumping on the inside. That can be tough when it's 6 feet.

If you did lock into one though, there were barrels and big turns to be had.

Friday did an even more dramatic turnaround. The wind blew all morning and by noon it was raining and just straight up ugly. Then after about an hour of drizzle, it stopped, the sun came out, the wind DIED, and a handful of us paddled out into clean, racy, shoulder-high waves.

Saturday it was more wind. Went out around noon just in time to grovel through crossed-up, blown-out shit at Magnolia St. I did however manage to backdoor the only decent sized set of the afternoon, fell, and just about blew my eardrum apart.

Note to self and 5 people who read this blog: Wear earplugs.

Yes, wear the sunblock, too. But unless you're already deaf or Pete Towsnend, wear the friggin' earplugs. I recommend Hearos, which look like skinny little blue mushrooms with 3 caps. They cost three bucks at any drugstore and they're completely waterproof. They also block out a lot of sound, which sucks if you're surfing with your buddies, but great if you're surrounded by babbling idiots at, oh I don't know...say, the PIER.

Few random what-have-you's before an early departure...

Congrats to my old friend, James Crush, who is THE hot shot in South Mish for another year. Crush hacked his way through the same slop the rest of us did this weekend. Only he did it with a bit more slash and style and in the process picked up his second win in Craig Beck's annual, "Who's the Hot Shot?" contest down in SD. Let's all dump a virtual Tecate on Gramps' lid.

My San Francisco Giants are currently leaving more men on base than the French army. It's always something. Last year it was the bullpen. This year it's the Ribbys. Or lack of.

A BIG up to Ryan Seelbach for being a top-3 finisher in his first heat of the Mavericks contest a while back. I got to watch it in HD yesterday and they showed NONE of his waves. They did show ONE of his waves from Round 2, but only because he dropped in on Skindog. Better watch out Seel-back, I hear Skinny's GNARLY.

My good friend and college roommate, Antman, just made the leap from roving SD indie surf photographer to Official Staff Photographer at Surfer Magazine. This means that whatever tiny chance I ever had of getting him to snap my picture in the water just officially blew out Chris Mauro's window. Oh well. Congrats anyway, bro.

Alright, that's enough of that. Before this love fest spins out of control and I start thanking Evan Slater for publishing my letter in Surfing this month (which, by the way, permanently cements my kook status for all eternity), I better make like a fly-by-trend surf company and Split.

Oh wait, I do have one fuckwit shoutout to make re: Jamie Tierney's college paper profile on Timmy Reyes in last month's Surfing. In trying to (somewhat accurately) profile little Timmy as the scrappy byproduct of trailer parks and pier hassle sessions, he pigeonholed HB as a gloomy, run-down, Flint, Michigan by the Pacific. And while I'll be the first to call this town out on its shortcomings, his polluted, blue-collar, "condoms floating in the water" generalizations in order to frame his subject and stick with the bit, were so far off base it's embarrassing. I hate the word sophomoric, but dude, if the trunks fit...

The Colonel says, "Go Giants."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Homey Don't Play That

A little warmer today. But not much.

Waves remained at around waist-high, but a little more mixed up than yesterday with some south swell crossing up the leftover north, making for some fun peaks here and there.

Actually, today I did something I hadn't done in a long time - played in the shorebreak with the kids.

No, that doesn't mean I put on a t-shirt and flopped around in the water with 20 pale little porkers on a Pennsylvania youth group trip. I mean it was high tide and instead of lurking outside on my log, picking off mushy set waves, I grabbed my chippiest chip, left the leash at home, and sat 20 feet from the sand with the little rippers, picking off re-forms and trying to play surf star.

I'd say I was marginally successful. And even then only if you define "successful" by, "I didn't embarrass myself or kill anyone or even run over any of the fat Keystoners."

But I did learn something. Reform sessions, minus leash, are a kick-ass workout. You basically paddle around, chasing little peaks and wedges and dumping closeouts. There are heaps of waves because it's mixing up and breaking all over the place. 2 feet can make the difference between not catching a wave, catching a wave and getting pitched, and catching a wave and pulling into a tiny barrel and, for a split-second anyway, becoming the aforementioned surf star.

Plus, the waves are so small and dump so quick that you've got to be wound like a spring and yet loose as a rubber chicken. Getting into those things before they dump and managing a turn or lip bash is fucking HARD. And doing any of the above without losing your board, well that's pretty much magic.

By the way, in an effort to be magic, I've developed a highly intricate and skillful way for not losing my board when I surf without a leash. Basically what I do is straighten out, (pay close attention here because it's complicated and requires some very tricky reflexes), take a deep breath, and FALL ON MY BOARD and then WRESTLE IT LIKE A GREASED PIG.

Got that?

1. Straighten Out
2. Fall
3. Wrestle
4. Squeal like Ned Beatty

Anyhow, I rarely like to mess with perfection. But today, as I was walking back out after, inexplicably, another failed attempt to rassle my greased-up Chuck Dent, I saw a young lad do something rather clever.

The wave closed out, he straightened out, did a mini backside bottom turn, caught it in mid-air, and landed on his back in the whitewater with his board safely in his arms.


So I says to Mabel, I says, "Hey, I sure as heck-fire can do that." That's what I told Mabel, I did.

So sure enough on my next wave I pigdog a backdoor wedge (is anyone else noticing a swine-motif in this post? must be the all-pork plate lunch I had today from Hawaiian BBQ), get clipped by the lip, straighten out, and begin my little mini backside bottom turn. Only instead of the board arriving safely in my arms as I fall back into the embrace of a whitewater cushion, it does a pop-wheelie and shoots straight into the beach while I tumble ass-first into the white water and go for a spin.

D'oh. D'oh. Fucking D'oh.

After that, plus my surf rack disaster, I've come to the conclusion that I'm more Homer Simpson than Homer Simpson.

The good news is that I get to try again tomorrow.


The Colonel says, "Mmmmm....bacon."

Monday, April 11, 2005

Shake Yer Bootie

It's friggin' cold right now.

The weather is great - warm, sunny, & pleasant. It's the water that's freezing. Newport clocked in at 51 degrees yesterday (that's cold, even for Norcal).

So, for the first time in over a year, I dusted off my booties and surfed two days in a row with rubber feet. It wasn't bad - the traction is great and you stay nice and toasty. But it wasn't all that good either.

For me anyway, the more rubber you have to wear while surfing just separates you that much more from the ocean, and that progressively detracts from the overall experience. Maybe a strange sentiment coming from a guy who, along with every other guy in Socal, is pretty much wrapped in some form of rubber or another (from 4/3 fulls to 2/1 tops) 10+ months of the year.

But there's just something about booties that crosses a line.

Guys from Hawaii or New Jersey would probably disagree in a big way that booties are some kind of neoprene line of demarcation, but think about it. We're talking about your FEET...the direct link between you and your surfboard. And when they're covered up, well, I don't want to get into the whole sex/condom thing, but you get the picture.

Even if you're wearing a fullsuit, there's just something about having bare feet the provides a key sense of interaction with what you're doing. It's like fingerless gloves (or crotchless panties, for that matter). The business bits are left exposed to, er, take care of business.

To be honest, I didn't notice it that much yesterday when the waves were decent sized and I was out on my fish. Similar to a shortboard, you're up and you're planted. Fucked up stance? Better luck next wave.

It was today, logging it, that I really noticed the difference. Crosstepping, cheating five, turning, trimming...your feet are so much more actively involved in the process (in the "dance", to get all Dave Parmenter on your ass) that booties really muffle the whole deal.

I think back to my trips to Indo and I recall that everytime I was out in the water and saw a white guy paddle by with bare feet (my friend Derrick did it the whole trip last spring), I felt a mixture of envy and shame. Shame because I felt like a puss for being afraid of a reef that ain't exactly Great Barrier-esque. And envy because he had the balls to do it, and was enjoying the true tropical experience: board, trunks...and that's it.

There was just something wrong about wearing rubber in the tropics.

(Then again, fear of one's own blood will conquer shame and envy on an Indo trip anyday. Especially after straightening out at Impossibles, doing the long jump off your board, and landing feet first in knee-deep water. I would've kissed my O'Neill Super Freaks...but that would have meant taking them off.)

Bottom line is that the less you have to wear while surfing, the better.

So this afternoon, I happily hung up my booties knowing that the wind hadn't blown hard in a few days, the upwelling had stopped, the swell had dropped, and that tomorrow would most likely be a bootie-free day.

Besides, I like having a bare ass white body, tan face, tan hands, and tan feet. It's the reverse Mickey Mouse look and the girls DIG IT.

K, few more ramblings before the sign-out...

The surf racks in my garage came tumbling down last week, along with half my boards.

Being the lazy Homer-fucking-Simpson that I am, I originally stuck the racks directly into the drywall using special self-screw drywall anchors that are supposed to carry up to 50 lbs a pop. I guess it didn't occur to me that I wasn't exactly hanging a picture and that I'd be yanking boards in and out on a daily basis, wiggling the screws back and forth, day in and day out.

The day it happened it was like that scene at the end of the Blues Brothers where they get out of the Bluesmobile after the all-night car chase, slam the door, and the entire thing falls apart. I literally touched one of the boards, and 4 or 5 of them, along with 3 or 4 of the racks, just came smashing down in one fell crunching swoop of drywall dust and fiberglass shards.

My 2 year old son thought it was hilarious. "Soofboard...BANG!"

So yesterday I finally got out my trusty stud-finder (although I still believe in the knock n' drill method) and redid the whole damn setup with some 8 inch deck screws.

The damage was done though - the worst victim being my 9'6" Dewey Weber log, which lost a fin and a chunk of the tail. It's now in the pile with the board with the hole on the bottom from the dipshit who couldn't get out of my way in time and decided to duck dive UNDER me instead...surfacing, tip first, right under my board.

The flipside to this is that I just ordered two new boards - a rocket fish and a new 6'6" - from Greg Sauritch down in San Diego. Greg has been shaping boards for me for years, and he's a classic guy. He's been making boards in North County for, like, 40 years now. He was Machado's original shaper and always has young SD rippers on his team before they get snapped up by the Merricks and Rustys of the world.

I don't usually plug people or things in this blog, but Greg is way overdue a mention

The Colonel says, "New boards rule."