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Posts tagged ‘beach’

surfing, a love story


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.


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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sunsets are stupid


santa barbara, california.


I laugh at my bro's camera and invent a new surfing move.

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The Wooden Surfboard

Once upon a time, on a flat Summer day in Santa Barbara, John decided to build a surfboard. An Alaia, to be exact. The Alaia is an ancient Hawaiian design made of wood. It is completely flat. Look ma, no fins.

Off we went to the hardware store to purchase some wood. Heh, heh, she said wood. Well, it turned out that they didn’t make wood wide enough. So we bought two pieces of wood (6’x 1’x 1″) and some very very strong glue. We also bought a saw, because we didn’t have one. A planer, because we also didn’t have one of those. Some sandpaper. And some string.

Those are all the ingredients, right there.

Chapter 1: The Planks
The boards, they needed sanding. John planed the inside edges so they’d fit together all nicelike. Then, they needed gluing. Newspaper might have been a good idea right about now. Shhh, don’t tell the landlord.

The planks had to dry. This part was sorta boring. Like watching, er, glue dry. The strings kept the wood all close together and tightlike without squishing it. Squishing is bad.

Chapter 2: The Measuring
The template came from the internet. Is there anything that isn’t on the internet? I’m going to say… no. The laser printer rallied to the cause and belched out all the pages. Then, we taped it together. Be vewy vewy kwiet, we’re measuring surfboards.

And then, measuring it again.

Chapter 3: The Saw
Now it was time for the cutting and shaping parts. The cutting part would be much easier with a better saw. Like, maybe one of those fancy ones that you plug in and stuff. Sweaty business, the sawing.

With the outline cut out, the planks were starting to look something like a surfboard. Something, being the key word.

Now it needed rails and some curves. John planed the rails down to a rounded edge.

Then, he put a wee bit of upward curve on the nose. (Okay, I lied, the Alaia isn’t totally flat, just mostly.) He also put a concave in the back. Just a wee one. I tried to take a picture of the concave, but it didn’t work out. You can barely see the concave curve on the bottom.

There followed lots and lots of sanding. Then, the Alaia received several coats of linseed oil to seal it for freshness. And a Milo brand for cuteness. Voilà.

Finally, we took it to the beach, and put it in the water. It actually floats! There weren’t really any waves, but John made it surf. I don’t have any pictures of this phenomenon, because I was surfing too. Maybe next time.

Final measurements: 5’11”, 3/4″ thick, 16″ wide (at the center).

The End.

Winter Wonderland