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Posts from the ‘Surf’ Category

who are you

Who are you, he says. It’s early and overcast and the wind is blowing sideways. I’m not a morning person and this combination wasn’t about to change that. Neither was the surf, which was a long way from good. The greeting came with just that edge of habitual hostility that comes as second nature to long-time surfers. Who are you, I’ve never seen you before. A secret handshake, a familiar ritual. I started laughing.

We stand around in the parking lot trying to convince ourselves that the surf isn’t terrible. That peak looks alright. Look at that corner. Sometimes it’s necessary to tell ourselves these little lies. Someone has a new board and it’s duly passed around. Unless it has a fancy resin tint, you can’t tell much about a board without touching it. This one has channels, the nightmare of glassers the world over, but damn fun to run your hands over. Finally we decide it’s not that bad and besides, you got to take that new board out.

Of course, it’s every bit as bad as it looked and then some. The wind’s blowing south, pushing the waves left. I hate going left and I curse the wind and the sky and the too early morning. I try to go right, surfing against the grain. Salmon swim up stream. I am not a fish.

I give up after an hour. You never wear a watch surfing when it’s actually good.

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.

summer cruisin’

My friend Katie, making Malibu look like a dream come true.

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.

seaglass

seaglass

The winter storms scraped the sand off the beaches. I float on the water and watch the rocks speed beneath my feet. There’s round boulders and sharp pebbles and perfectly rounded river rock all sifted and spun. And in the sand, sea glass glimmers, buried treasure just waiting to be discovered. The colors soften and the shifting sands rub smooth the rough spots, an inexorable perfecting.

I usually don’t take anything from the beach, except whatever trash I happen to find. I like to leave the shells and the rocks to tumble in the sand and create more beach, or however that actually works. I’m a little uncertain of the mechanics of the thing. But it does seem like the rocks belong on the beach. Surely, they are there for a reason.

The dog walking ladies and the local hippies and the local zillionaires and I, well, we pick up the trash on our out-of-the-way beach, that’s almost hidden, but not quite. If we don’t, no one else will. So we do.

telling secrets

thatoneday

There’s an etiquette among surf photographers, at least in theory, to avoid naming a spot. You crop out the landmarks and pretend that no one could possibly find the secret spot you uncovered. Maybe you don’t even post a picture until days or weeks later. Of course, in practice, this rarely works especially when instagram needs feeding on the regular or it gets cranky. We all get cranky when we’re hungry amiright? Invariably fights break out online over this spot or that spot and why did you post that, bro. It’s futile, if amusing.

Last weekend was different. There was no real good reason to hide the landmarks, no need to pretend to have found some new secret wave, a long way off the grid. A combination of new sandbars formed by the rains and an unusual swell angle meant waves somewhere we just don’t see waves very often. You could check this place every day for a year, or five years even, and never see it look like this. Despite the forecasts and the models, the world is still full of surprises, sometimes. Which is nice.

I have to confess, though, I’m a little tired of looking at muddy waters. It’s so very brown. I like brown if it means chocolate and peanut butter, and ideally, both together. But brown oceans mean, well, nothing super good. Maybe it could be blue again soon.

I’d like to dive into the blue ocean.

splinters

splinters

The whole problem was that pine doesn’t float.

He’d gone to the hardware store and bought the wood, three six-food long boards. It was pine, because pine is what they sell at the hardware store down the street. Then he’d brought home the boards and glued them together, each six inches wide and one inch thick, and clamped them tightly. The glue seeped through the cracks and pooled on the cement. When the glue dried, he cut the whole thing loose from the patio with a saw.

Then he took the saw and made a few cuts and took the hand planer, and well, then he planed. That took a while, since it was a very small planer, barely big enough to fit in the palm of his hand. Soon a pile of shavings the color of a well-brewed pilsner or of the late summer hills of central California grew at his feet. Then the sand paper, creased and dusted, scritched and scratched at the boards, smoothing out every last rough spot and rounding off the edges and corners. Finally he painted on two coats of oil to seal the wood and at last it was finished, a freshly made wooden surfboard, ready for its first trip to the sea.

Except that it didn’t float. Or at least, not very well. Surfboards come in all shapes and sizes and colors, but the one trait they all share is that they float when put in water. This is in fact essential to their purpose. They must float and ideally, glide across the surface of the water. Speed is also a good attribute for a surfboard to have. But the pine board with its glue and its planed edges and sanded curves didn’t float or glide or do much of anything very well. It wasn’t meant for water, it seemed, which was a terribly sorry thing, because a surfboard is by definition meant for water.

And so he decided to try again. This time instead of pine he ordered special wood, wood that would float. It traveled across the Pacific on a container ship of the sort whose discarded containers are smashed together and turned into trendy bars and art galleries where men with beards like to gather. The special floating wood showed up on the doorstep, delivered by a harried FedEx driver around 10am one morning.

There were three boards in the package, each one over six feet long, cut from a Paulownia tree somewhere in Asia. Paulownia trees are magical things. Their wood floats, yes. And the trees regrow from their roots even after they’ve been cut down for boards to send across the ocean. Paulownia is for boats and surfboards, for all the things that need to glide on the water.

This time instead of planing the boards himself with his tiny palm-sized planer, he took the boards to a wood-worker named John who has a shop full of tools and a truck to haul them. His workshop is on a hillside, deep in a hidden canyon, the kind of place you don’t know exists until you do. The canyon runs west to the ocean, west toward the channel islands, blue and sharp-edged under a noon-day sun.

John glued the three magic boards together and clamped them tightly. Then he took his planer and smoothed and shaped the wood to his whim. Then he sanded it to satin. Two coats of oil slushed over the wood to protect it from harm. And then it was done.

And this time when he put it in the water, it actually stayed on top of the water like a surfboard is supposed to do, not like the pine, which didn’t float at all. The board made from the magic floating wood that came across the Pacific in a container on a giant ship slid and sliced, twisting and gliding over the top of water glittering with light. And he rode it over and over, wave after wave, joyful.

But the magic wood that floats also breaks with impressive ease. And one day the surfboard made from Paulownia broke in half. It split right down the middle. He picked up the pieces and carried them home under his arm just like a normal surfboard that hadn’t broken in half. Then he went to the hardware store and bought some more glue, the waterproof kind, designed for boats and other things that go in the water.

He took the two pieces of his wooden surfboard, glued them together, clamping them tightly. And just like last time, some glue seeped through the crack and stuck to the cement. And just like last time, he pried it free with a saw. The excess glue sanded off easily. Good as new, he said.

And then he headed down to the beach, his wood board tucked under his arm, and paddled out into the capacious sea.

chill vibes

cr_boat

Recently I had the chance to travel to Nosara, Costa Rica. The chillest vibes, you guys, the chillest. Nosara is around three hours from airport in Liberia, through jungled coastal mountain ranges, along winding dirt roads. It’s the kind of place where you want to turn off your phone and stay awhile. Also, there’s surf. Warm water, bikini-ready, surf. A++ would go again.

wide eyed

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 1.48.31 PM

I’m pretty sure I posted more selfies for this story than I ever have before in my entire internet life. So there’s that. The 360fly is a new action-adventure camera with an extra-wide angle lens. It captures all the things. You can read all about it at Men’s Journal if you like.