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Posts from the ‘Surf’ Category

southern california surfing

“In this crowded world the surfer can still seek and find the perfect day, the perfect wave, and be alone with the surf and his thoughts,” John Severson wrote in 1960 in The Surfer, a scrappy, home-made publication that eventually became Surfer Magazine. Solitude was more easily found in Southern California in 1960 than it is today, but driving the coast in pursuit of the perfect wave remains a rite of passage. While much has changed on land, out in the lineup, today’s surfers still ride the same waves and chase the same feelings of escape, freedom, and joy.

I was super stoked to work as a contributing writer on this fun guide book from Wildsam. Read it for information about where to eat, stay, and surf in Southern California. Or, browse for essays from people like Matt Warshaw and interviews with coastal conservation specialists and surfboard shapers. See the book at Wildsam.

the fabulous and ridiculous adventures of surfline man

surfer at sunset walking up the beach

Hapless yet determined, annoying yet impossible to hate, Surfline Man loves surfing more than anything else in life. He reads every last forecast like it’s truth and he spends so many hours thinking about surfing. More, in fact, than he spends actually doing it. Surfline Man knows what’s up, and has many opinions which he’ll share with you at length. But he’s also the most stoked guy you’ll ever meet. Surfing, it’s like his favorite thing!

Yes, of course he drives a Sprinter van. And yes, he bought the red fins, because the looked cool, not because they would actually work with his board. He can’t help but buy every latest and greatest piece of gear in the hope that somehow this one thing will make his life complete. You see how it is.

Here is the full archive of Surfline Man’s fabulous and ridiculous adventures over at Beachgrit, where he was born and continues to live out his days.

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It all began one fateful day: I did not know it was a Surfline Day, when untold hordes come crawling out from every nook and cranny. There is surf today! Everyone go surfing! Omg! And, obediently, Surfline Man and all his besties go surfing. — Surfline Man: An Anthropological Study

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sharron weber: the secret surfer

In the late 1960s and early 1970s there came a significant shift in surfing from the stylish noseriding of classic longboarding to the more slashing, vertical turns of the shortboard era. Easily making the transition from longboards to the new, shorter boards, Sharron Weber was one of the stand-out surfers of her era. She won two world championship titles before largely disappearing from view. This is the mostly forgotten story of two-time world surfing champion Sharron Weber. A slightly different version of this story originally ran in The Surfer’s Journal 29.4. I am grateful to Sharron for sharing her story with me in a series of early morning interviews before she headed off to work at The Tire Warehouse in Lihue.

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On a Sunday afternoon in the early fall of 1972, Sharron Weber won her second world title in San Diego, California. Small lefts rolled through the lineup at the Ocean Beach pier, where locals had nailed the broken pieces of David Nuuhiwa’s favorite board. It was some kind of protest, whose significance no one quite remembers. A crowd watched from the beach as Weber ripped her way to victory on her red, Gerry Lopez-shaped Lightning Bolt.

The plain-spoken owner of a tire store in Lihue, Kauai, Weber was one of the most brilliant surfers of her era. But you would never know it. Unless, that is, you were there.

“She was a big part of this very special period in surfing where surfing was finding a new identity,” said Gerry Lopez. “She was one of the avante-garde.”

Raised in Hawaii, Weber evolved into one of surfing’s innovators, pushing the sport in ever more radical directions. As much as her better-known male peers, Weber embodied the shift from the longboard surfing of the 1960s to the dynamic style of the shortboard era.

In her brief contest career, Weber won six Hawaiian state titles, the 1969 U.S. Championship at Huntington Beach, and the world championships in 1970 and 1972. But by the time Margo Oberg won the first women’s professional world title in 1977, Weber was changing tires at her warehouse. Her time in competitive surfing had already ended.

She is one of the pioneers of women’s surfing. “I’m a secret surfer,” Weber said with her characteristic dry humor. “I’m known in your magazines as not being known.” She shined briefly and brightly. Then she disappeared back into her life, leaving only ripples behind.

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surfing, a love story

daydreaming

I originally wrote this story for The Toast, which was one of my favorite sites in the era of The Awl and The Hairpin, among others, when there remained space online for weird, funny things that weren’t really relevent at all. They were just fun to read. Anyway, I wrote this for an audience of women who didn’t surf. It’s about surfing, California, the miracles nature creates, and how our illusions stay with us, despite or maybe because of their distance from reality.

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The clutch pedal feels cold under my bare foot, and there’s sand lodged in deep between my toes. I’m pretty sure I have ten of them, but I can only feel two or three. Sky, air, sea, they’re all grey, so much so that it’s impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. The heater in my VW is episodic. It works, but never until it’s good and ready. My hair smells like kelp. My feet are so cold. I pull my beanie down lower and drive faster.

The surf is best in the winter here, when the winds in the North Pacific whip up storms that hurtle toward the coast. That’s where the waves come from; they come from the spinning winds and they come from a long way out to sea. Sometimes the storms make a wrong turn and tuck up into the armpit of Alaska never to be seen again. That’s good for Alaska’s massive snow-fed rivers and mighty salmon runs, but not especially good for surfing in California.

The best storms for surf hang out around Hawaii — because why wouldn’t they? — or they crash into the coast somewhere north of San Francisco. If the storms are too close, the surf is wrecked. If they’re too far away, the waves are too small by the time they arrive at the beach. To make good surf, the storms have to be just the right size in just the right place. It’s a miracle we ever surf at all.

But surf we do. We surf when it’s clean and perfect. We surf when it’s big and we surf when it’s small. It’s best on the low tide, but we surf the high tide, too. We have boards of every size and shape for every possible occasion — long boards, short boards, boards with wide tails, boards with pin tails, boards with a little more foam, boards with a lot more foam. They come in every shape you can imagine and some you can’t. Blown out, knee-high slop or head-high, reeling perfection — We surf it all.

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queen steph

It’s the unique burden of women athletes that they have to argue for the existence of their sports. If an event isn’t interesting, critics are quick to jump to the conclusion that women shouldn’t have contests and shouldn’t compete at all. Men’s sports, well, of course, we have men’s sports. Men are considered the default. No one would really argue that men’s sports shouldn’t exist. And yet, it happens all the time with women’s events. No one got barreled? Well, why do they even have a contest of their own. Or at least, so runs the argument. — You can read more if you like!