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Posts from the ‘Recent Writing’ Category

what i did on my summer vacation

Did I tell you about the crabs? I don’t think I told you about the crabs.

In August, I went to Seattle to talk to the crew at evo.com, who are a brick and mortar and online retail outlet. They sell all our favorite toys, basically — skis, bikes, surfboards, whathaveyou. They’re trying to crack the code on how to do retail in an internet world and so far, it’s working out for them, thanks to a combination of fun, in-store events and extensive online inventory. Founder Bryce Phillips is convinced that the outdoor industry needs brick and mortar stores and he’s out to find a model that works. You can read more about that whole thing here.

But you were wondering about the crabs. After hanging out with the crew at evo and eating amazing food at Joule, I hopped in the car and drove out to Westport. That sounds easy enough, I thought. And then I started driving, through Seattle traffic, which is no joke; though the military base traffic outside Olympia, also no joke; through the fork in the road with the unlit signs; and then through a whole long stretch of dark, tree-lined nowhere. I drove west, chasing a sliver moon as it slid toward the horizon, the trees standing as dark shadows on a still-darker sky.

In Inverness amidst dark store fronts and criss-crossed bridges, I nearly miss my turn. I’ve driven enough stage races to believe, maybe wrongly, that I can find anything, any small dot of a town in the middle of nothing, any start or finish line randomly drawn across a road somewhere a long way from anywhere. But this darkness was another thing altogether and the mailboxes dotting the road offered the hint that anyone else existed in the world at all. Another punk song, another few miles. Finally, a right turn and there.

Of course, in the daylight, none of this was any kind of drama at all. It was just a road like any other road to anywhere. I woke up in a renovated motor inn, called The Loge, with an espresso machine and a tap room. Whenever I find an espresso machine, and I’ve found them in some unexpected places, I know I’ve found my people.

Try surfing they said, it’ll be fun, they said. So off we went to surf at Westlaven State Beach, which has a convenient jetty. Jetties and surfing go together like peanut butter and chocolate, on the whole. This one had some weird bendy shit going on, but on the whole, it lined things up alright. The wind blew onshore. And the water was quite simply the coldest water ever.

Everyone said it wouldn’t upwell in August, but everyone was totally wrong. The thing about upwelling is, that you can’t use the offshore bouys to get a temperature reading. The near-shore water temperatures can be up to ten degrees colder. The bouy said it was 58. This was totally not 58. Totally not. Anyway, upwelling. It’ll freeze your brains. And every other part of you. Next time, more neoprene.

Also no one told me about the crabs. There were crabs and they were giant, just scuttling around on the sand in the shallows. Sharks, orcas, whatever. Get those crabs away from me, man, get them away.

But you’re wondering about the waves. Yes. There were waves. And also, like every surf line-up every where, there were a four or five locals on the best peak surfing circles around me, the weird girl with bare feet in freezing water, who clearly wasn’t from around those parts.

You’re never especially anonymous in a surf line-up as a woman, and this was no different. They weren’t mean. Locals are rarely overtly mean. They just politely and smoothly owned the peak. No harm, no foul, I’ve done the same. There was in fact something soothing in the routine of it, large crabs, freezing water, and dark roads aside, surfing is the same the world over.

Surfing rewards patience. And eventually, I got a few just before I turned into an ice block.

why is there no women’s tour de france?

The Tour de France is a sprawling pandemonium of bike racing, product launches, and roadside parties. But the sport’s biggest event, the Tour itself, has largely left women riders out of the festivities. This year, they’ll participate for just two days, in a race called La Course, which runs ahead of the men’s race.

Why is there no Tour de France for women? Ask 12-time World Champion Marianne Vos, and she’ll laugh and say in her distinctive, Dutch-inflected English, “Well, that’s going to be a very long answer.” — Read the story A Chronicle of Persistance over at Bicycling.

stinner frameworks

I did a feature with framebuilder Aaron Stinner for Mountain Flyer magazine. We did a long interview. Then I cruised around the workshop and made pictures. I still had to portraits, which I get weirdly nervous about. I like doing them! But I still get weirdly nervous. The light was doing its shitty coastal fog thing and not in an interesting way. Coastal fog can be good, but this was not good coastal fog.

So we went out to the roof, because that seemed like it could be cool, but the light was still bad. I tried this and that and tried to be patient like, maybe this’ll work out somehow? I really need this to work out somehow. Then light got all soft and I made Aaron laugh and we got pictures on the roof. If you want to read it and see more photos, go here to buy a copy, http://www.mountainflyermagazine.com/

If you aren’t familiar with Stinner Frameworks, they make beautifully painted steel and titanium bikes. Check their ig @StinnerFrameworks for some eye candy. If I win the lottery, I’m totally buying one.

I’ve never had a custom bike and it would be a rad project to dial in a custom geometry. I have… weird proportions. For bikes! I fit in water great. Bikes, not so much. I’ve always wanted to do a custom road bike that would fit just that little bit better than the stock bike I ride now — which, is by no means terrible. I don’t need a custom bike. But it would be amazingly fun to build one. Amazingly nerdy fun! Which in my opinion is the best kind of fun.

sun hats

The coffee shop had a drink called the Trophy Wife, a sure sign that I’d strayed a long way from my usual neighborhood. Which, is not to say that there are no trophy wives where I live, just that none of the local coffee shops had ever seen fit to celebrate them with a menu item. I never did find out what was in the Trophy Wife, though as it turned out, there was also a Gold Digger. I just ordered my usual espresso. It was correctly pulled ristretto which shows that while they may not think much of women who marry for money, they do know their way around an espresso machine. You do you, Trophy Wives, you do you.

Meanwhile, I reviewed some clothing from Rapha, http://www.mensjournal.com/gear/articles/cycling-style-watch-raphas-new-lines-collection-is-awesome-w486471 and a couple of surf backpacks, http://www.mensjournal.com/gear/articles/surf-pack-showdown-two-essential-packs-to-carry-your-gear-w488249 I am especially stoked on the Da Kine pack, which is super roomy and totes waterproof. Not in the story: I use the laptop sleeves to carry bikinis. I’m sure the average dude would find this advice helpful.

On the way home, I drove through Malibu. The surf was flat, but a horde of people in sun hats were sitting in the line-up, enjoying the day. There are worst ways to waste away an hour or so.

Further up the coast, it turned out that there was more to do than sit around in sun hats. The best days are the days when Surfline gets it wrong. Instead of a crazed swell-seeking horde, a bunch of giddy locals and random passersby romped up and down the point and giggled liked fools. The sun was out and there were waves in an expected place. There’s nothing not to like in a set-up like that. By chance a friend from up north was passing through, and she got to experience a magical day. Good things are even better when there’s someone to share them with.

sediment sandwich

Even when I write about mountain biking it somehow ends up being about surfing. A few months ago I went out to the desert to ride. It was all dry washes and twisted juniper and layers of ancient rock stacked up one on the next like a sedimentary club sandwich. I rode some good trails and some not that great trails.

When I came home, I got invited to join in Joe Parkin’s guest-edited Dirt Rag issue. So I wrote about mountain biking in the desert and somehow it ended up being about surfing. There are bikes, too, of course. I mean, I did actually ride mountain bikes in the desert, but it’s sometimes hard to escape the obvious metaphor when your rolling single track through what was once a prehistoric sea.

Thanks to Joe for letting me do my thing without imposing all that much in the way of boundaries. Or really like any boundaries at all. Write like Chas Smith is pretty much an invitation to mayhem. I did my best. Here’s more about the issue, which includes way more talented people than I am, and how to grab yourself a copy. Yes, single issues are available over there at Dirt Rag. http://dirtragmag.com/dirt-rag-issue-199-is-here/

ghostbikes

The ghostbike dedicated to Salvador Barragan leans locked to a palm tree in Oxnard, California. Unbroken lines of cars stream down the four-lane road past the stripped-down, white-painted bike. A faded tag on the wall recalls a turf war, likely long forgotten by now. The wall, built of pale pink cinder blocks, is a typical sight in California, dividing backyards from roadways, preserving the illusion of tranquility against the rush of suburban life. Barragan died after he was hit by a driver making a u-turn.

Ghostbikes are fleeting, ephemeral memorials to cyclists killed by cars while riding their bikes. The bikes, their parts removed, are painted white and placed on the roadside. Most ghostbikes are removed very soon after they’re placed. Maybe it’s easier that way. On rare occasions, a ghostbike may stand for many months, a stark reminder of a last ride and a life cut short.

A while back, I did a photo essay for Bicycling on ghostbikes and it’s now live. The first ghostbikes were placed in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003 and they’ve since become a near-universal symbol for a downed cyclist. I interviewed a pair of activists in Southern California and photographed a series of memorials for the project. Head to Bicycling.com to see the story.

Of course, there were way more photos than we eventually ran, because that’s how it always works out. If you’d like to see the rest of the images, I put a ghostbikes gallery over on my photo site.

we like bikes

We like bikes. Especially blue ones. Obviously.

That’s one of the rad new bikes I saw at the Sea Otter thing. Maybe you’d like to see more?

Go over to Men’s Journal and have a look.

war and memory

In 1972, cyclist Rebecca Rusch’s father’s plane was shot from the sky over Laos. Steve Rusch was flying a mission for the US Air Force during the final years of the American war in Vietnam. Rusch has few, if any memories of her father.

But in March 2015, she went in search of his ghost, and herself. Together with Vietnamese rider Huyen Nguyen, Rusch retracing the 1,200-mile Ho Chi Minh Trail, an historic secret network through Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos that Northern Vietnamese once used to supply battleground forces to the south. From her bicycle, Rusch planned to read in the contours of Vietnam’s terrain the entwined stories of the war and her family. — Read the rest at Bicycling.

saturate

I went out to get some photos to finish up a project on Friday. Everyone dreams about golden hour and lens flair is hella trendy. But you know what I like even better? A nice, thick, coastal fog. No dumb shadows to get in the way. Soft, mellow whites. And deep, beautifully saturated colors. I mean, I know saturated colors aren’t exactly trendy either. But I love ’em. So fuck trends anyway.

You’ll get to see the photos from this project along with some words soon. This railroad track actually has nothing to do with it. I just happened to see it along the way. We have a lot of railroad tracks in coastal California.

If you need some comic relief, I highly recommend watching the video clip in this next one. It’s funny, and kind of endearing. Adam Sandler says he’s terrible at surfing. Then goes on to explain just what happened the last time he paddled out.

Click for the video, stay for some words about surfing Malibu and etiquette. Also, I have so gotten shut out at Malibu. But I can never resist the temptation to head down and try it once in a while. So dreamy, you crazy crowded right-hand point break place. So dreamy.

Also, some bikes. I went to Rally’s team training camp and I did the usual interviews. Training camp interviews can be really amazing. You have time, for one thing. You can sit there in the rental house on the rental couch and really talk to someone. But there is a certain same-ness to the narrative. The beginning of a new season is always hopeful. The athletes you talk to, they have goals and plans. They all want to be better than last year.

To find a way to make each story distinctive and to find a way to illuminate the individual becomes the challenge of these things. For this story, I sat at the kitchen counter as Matteo Dal-Cin made dinner for his teammates.

I’m heading out to the desert this week. I’m taking a film camera which is going to be so weird. I don’t really do film? But I guess now I do. Also, I’m taking Edward Abbey and John McPhee. I’m supposed to ride bikes out there, too. That’s a lot of things.

goals

"Who wants to get out of this barrel?" from Kelly Slater Wave Co on Vimeo.

Can I be Steph when I grow up? That would be swell. Also, a reason to visit florida, maybe.