Thursday, August 16, 2007

Johnny Bench From Cincinnati

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Colonel says, "Agent Mulder who?"

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

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Giraffes, Tiki Monsters, & Oompa Loompas

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

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

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

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

If you will...

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

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

Megan Abubo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 03, 2007

Oh, Side

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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