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Posts tagged ‘surfing’

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/

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.

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.

John Florence Interview: A View from a Blue Moon

 

I interviewed John Florence about his upcoming film A View From a Blue Moon. It’s produced by the guys at Brain Farm who made The Art of Flight, a scrumptiously beautiful snowboard film. The Florence film comes out this winter. Here’s what he had to say about it at Men’s Journal:

We just made it the way we wanted to make it, you know? It’s everything that I’ve always wanted to do. We got to work with this big camera gear, helicopters. We wanted it to be as cinematic as we could do it.

Read More.

As an image and surf nerd, I can’t wait to see the full film.

the stories we tell

Tell me a story, I say. Anything will do. He looks surprised and has to think about where to begin. There was this one day, he says. It was ten feet and glassy, I paddled out with my best friend.

I’m not sure where we are anymore. We’ve been riding up this hill so long it is starting to feel like my whole life has been spent here, just riding. I know I’ll dream of it later. I’ll awaken in a sweat, haunted by the vision of these endless corners, each one concealing then revealing another pitch upward. The road is inexorable, existential. There’s no exit and I feel like a cockroach.

There was a big set, I was caught inside, he’s saying. The story comes to me from a long way away, as if through a dixie cup connected by a long string across the span of our bedroom windows. The words skip and jump. Some of them are missing altogether.

I picture the boiling sea, imagine its push and tug, the way it toys with you, helpless. It’s like gravity, the sea, and just now, gravity is not exactly my favorite thing, riding up a road someone decided belonged here, absurdly high on a mountain. Gravity pulls at my legs, dragging me backward, pulling me under. I’m drowning with only my legs to save me.

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