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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.

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.

july

The Tour de France is winding through France’s flat farmlands, as it does every year around this time. Want some reasons it’s cool? I contributed to a list thingy for Bicycling.

I also wrote a story about sprinter Mark Cavendish, which was pretty ruthlessly overtaken by events. Thanks to some quick work with my editor, we managed to salvage it, but it was a close run thing. Honestly, I just needed the guy to finish a safe fourth. I feel like that should not have been too much to ask. But it’s the Tour, so you know, you rarely get what you ask for.

If you read fiction at all — and really, you should all read fiction of some kind of another, because it’s fun. It’s the most fun you can have with words, on the whole. Except maybe poetry? Poetry is pretty fun with words, too.

Grab yourself a copy of David Conventry’s novel, The Invisible Mile, about a Tour de France during the 1920’s. It is way more interesting and beautifully written than that description suggests. Way more. The writer has the ability to describe racing and riding a bike in ways I’ve never thought of — and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to explain racing and riding bikes. It’s true in the way that the best fiction is.

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.

freeways and freight trains

It was the day after the election and I went down to Rincon. We were all a bunch of zombies stumbling around on Mars, but the surf was firing. In California we build freeways next to beaches, which is a weird sort of habit, but so are a lot of things. On the wall beneath the freeway, someone had voted with a spraycan. They wanted Tom Curren, local legend and three-time world champion to be president, instead of the guy who’d won the election. Pot smoke hung languid on the breeze, unthinkably beautiful waves rushed down the point, a luminous orange sun slid down the sky. And in that moment, it felt like nothing had changed at all.

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/

drive

I did a little road trip up the coast last week. I had a work thing to do in Napa, but I decided to take the round-about way to get there. I drove to Santa Cruz, then up highway 1 to Pacifica. If you need a place to stay within reach of San Francisco, but not in San Francisco, Pacifica is pretty great. It’s stupid scenic. Stupid.

Also, the Holiday Inn Express is super clean and overlooks the ocean. The lovely man at the front desk gave me a room upgrade which is pretty much the best thing ever. I got a sandwich at Dinosaur’s with tofu and other things on it and some spring rolls and it ruled the world. The only thing missing in Pacifica is solid espresso, but really, you can’t have everything in life.

So yeah, drive from Santa Cruz to Pacifica sometime. You can see the weird old bunker at Devil’s Slide and a whole bunch of ocean. Very cold, windy ocean. Which is alright, really. You’re not actually going to go in it, you’re just going to look at it. And it’s scenic as fuck.

After the scenic, windy, freezing ocean part, I drove through San Francisco, where I cruised the Great Highway and saw more freezing, windy ocean parts. Also, I guess some sharks live there, but I didn’t see any.

#novanlife