Yvon Chouinard
"He who dies with the least toys wins," says Yvon Chouinard. "Because the more you know, the less you need."

Long Read: The Divine Yvon Chouinard!

Dazzling, inspiring read of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard in The New Yorker.

I’ll admit. Patagonia, the brand, doesn’t do a hell of a lot for me. The ritual use of dull browns, the lingering smell of piety, the full silhouettes suited to the fashionably retarded.

I live in the city where the climate is temperate. I don’t climb, don’t fish, use a little of the ocean close to shore and what little nature I get is from the television. Fornication, perhaps, is the closest I get to God.

And, yet, I’ve always found Yvon Chouinard, the climber and surfer who founded Patagonia, deeply interesting. One of those men whom you would’ve loved as a childhood mentor. Teach me to make tools, teach me to scale mountains, teach me to live in the wild.

Recently, writer  profiled Yvon for The New Yorker. If you didn’t know, or appreciate, Yvon before, read this and you’ll fall under his spell.

Here’s a taste.

He was first (and perhaps in his own mind remains foremost) a climber, a renowned pioneer of rock and ice routes around the world, and one of the luminaries of the great generation of American postwar outdoor adventurers. Then a blacksmith: he designed, and made by hand, a host of ingenious new climbing tools, and for a time was the leading manufacturer of climbing equipment in North America. Next, itinerant thrill-seeker: the relatively meagre proceeds from equipment sales allowed him to continue to pursue an intrepid life of risky recreation in the outdoors. (On a van trip from California to the tip of South America, in 1968, ostensibly to climb Mt. Fitz Roy, he and his mates carried a homemade flag that read “Viva Los Fun Hogs.” Chouinard told me, “People we met, hitchhikers we picked up, they asked us, ‘What does this mean, “Fun Hogs”?’ We said, ‘Puercos deportivos.’ Heh-heh. Sporting porks.”) Finally, eco-warrior: his travels and travails in supposedly wild places awakened him to their ongoing devastation, and he made it his mission, as a man selling consumer goods that he acknowledged people don’t need, to try to counteract humanity’s regrettable propensity to soil its own nest. In each of these guises, at least, he was authentically countercultural and anti-corporate, a credible advocate for a kind of lawless self-reliance and uncompromising common sense.

His childhood dream was to be a fur trapper, like his French-Canadian forebears. He was reared in Lisbon, Maine, the home town of his mother, Yvonne. School was all in French. His father, a third-grade dropout, was a journeyman laborer who at night repaired the looms at a wool mill there—a dur à cuire whom Chouinard remembers sitting at the kitchen table with a bottle of whiskey, using a pair of pliers to pull his own teeth, because he objected to the expense of dentures. “I was brought up surrounded by women,” Chouinard writes. “I have ever since preferred that accommodation.”

In January, 1946, Yvon’s older brother Gerald, stationed in San Diego, in the Navy, sent his family a box of oranges. Fresh fruit in winter: “That’s it,” Yvonne said. Citing her husband’s asthma, she insisted that the family move, that spring, to California: Burbank. Yvon, a shrimp with a girl’s name and no English, fled public school after a week and wound up at parochial school under the tutelage of nuns. He was, as he recalls, a loner and a geek, a D student who spent all his free time biking to city parks and private golf-course ponds to bait-fish and to hunt for frogs, crawdads, and rabbits. Before long, he was diving for lobster and abalone off the Malibu coast.

And this, about the company’s ethos. Not exactly anti-profit, but close.

Eventually, they went so far as to openly discourage their customers from buying their products, as in the notorious 2011 advertising campaign that read “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” It went on, “The environmental cost of everything we make is astonishing.” Manufacturing and shipping just one of the jackets in question required a hundred and thirty-five litres of water and generated nearly twenty pounds of carbon dioxide. “Don’t buy what you don’t need.” (Some people at Patagonia had been considering declaring Black Friday a “no-buy day,” to make their point about consumption.)

Guilt and high principle mutate into marketing: this was the Patagonia feedback loop, on high screech. To some, the slogan sounded an awful lot like “Buy this jacket, not that other one, from the North Face.” One plausible response was “Don’t worry, I won’t. I can’t afford it.” Chouinard may walk the walk, as far as not buying things—his own Patagonia gear tends to date back to the last century—but his customers are often the kinds of people who can afford as many jackets as they want. The credo “One Percent for the Planet” can misread. There are class implications, problems of privilege and access, the lingering taint of monikers like Fratagonia and Patagucci.

One catalogue, in the nineties, had a little chart of what Patagonia was versus what it was not: Fly fishing, not bass fishing. Long-haul trucking, not delivery-men. Surfing, not waterskiing. Upland bird hunting, not deer hunting. Gardeners, not survivalists. Patagonia’s people were the West’s recolonizers, the next wave of pioneers, the self-appointed protectors asserting a blue-state ethos in red-state territory—tree huggers pitching their tents in a logging camp. By now, this war for the West is a tired one, but it is in some ways a microcosm of the greater global battle between those who want to preserve lands and conserve resources and those who would prefer to exploit them.

The Patagonia catalogue can induce awe and envy. Authentic as its photographic subjects are—“We were the first to use real people, and captions saying who and where they were,” Chouinard said—it is a classic kind of aspirational branding. The life style, to a large swath, is unaffordable, if not in pure monetary terms (outdoor adventure is not in itself expensive, necessarily, although the clothing for sale certainly is), then at least in terms of time, talent, energy, and gumption. It isn’t really a lack of funds that prevents most of us from spending half the year sleeping in vans and dodging the park rangers to free-solo the big walls at Yosemite.

In its presentation of hale young adventure athletes, living righteously in Edenic locales, all of them with just the right amount of dishevelment and duct tape, the catalogue can emanate the passive-aggressive piety of a food-co-op scolding. It unwittingly celebrates a kind of countercultural conformity. This neo-Rockwellian idyll of desert-dawn yoga sessions, usefully toned arms and abs, spectacularly perilous bivouacs and bouldering slabs, hardy kids and sporty hounds can feel like a rebuke if you are on a sofa in the city.

Read the full story here. 

And here, below, watch the wonderful full-length movie 180 South, as climber Jeff Johnson recreates Yvon and Doug Tompkins wild 1968 trip to Patagonia.

Tearjerker: Andy Irons Documentary!

The film you've been waiting for...

I don’t need to remind anyone of Andy Irons’ molecular intensity. How ravenously he attacked life. There was no spectacle on earth like AI and Kelly’s gutter brawls.

Andy walked an edge.

But what drove Andy, what made Andy so compelling and so polemic, mostly loved, sometimes hated, eventually killed him.

Filmic? Yeah, it is.

And, coming early next year, a successful Kickstarter campaign willing I suppose, is the documentary Andy: The Untold Story of Andy Irons. 

From the release:

This is the life story of three-time world champion surfer Andy Irons who died at age 32 from a heart attack with the secondary cause being an acute mixture of drugs. Andy and his brother, Bruce, came from humble beginnings on the small Hawaiian island of Kauai. 

The film chronicles Andy’s struggles with dyslexia, bipolar disease, self-medication, addiction, fame, success, and failure. Andy was a blue collar people’s champ who dealt with the same issues millions of people around the world struggle with every day. He died on November 2, 2010. His wife was eight months pregnant with their son, Axel, at the time.

The Andy Irons Story is a documentary film that focuses on the true, untold story of one of the world’s most prolific surfers. The intent of the film is to show the unfiltered life of Andy Irons, one that was filled with energy, passion, success, and challenges. Challenges that pushed Andy to the brink and were both the best parts of Andy and the hardest to handle. The filmmakers, Steve and Todd Jones, wanted to create a film that captured the true essence of Andy Irons – his family, his friends, and those who later realized a friendship that at times was hard to understand.

The film features in-depth interviews with Andy’s brother Bruce Irons, his wife Lyndie Irons, Joel Parkinson, Nathan Fletcher, Sunny Garcia, and Kelly Slater. Andy’s friends, family, and competitors share their stories of intimacy and fire with Andy Irons throughout the film. The unabashedly honest testimonials compel the story and reveal the very real side of Andy. This is not a film about surfing; this is a film about a person that lived life to its fullest at the top of his industry, but did so facing insurmountable internal challenges. This story is about everything that made Andy Irons the man he was. The filmmakers invite you to be a part of this project and see it through to its fullest extent. The teaser presented here showcases the film’s intent. We’ve shot hundreds of hours of interviews and principal cinematography is wrapped. With your support we can make this film better. The additional support will go towards the finishing touches, including sound design, archival footage remastering, color enhancement, and the soundtrack.

And, god it’s a tearjerker. Still, if you get a little weepy, remind yourself of AI’s words from his last-ever interview. Andy…lived.

“Everything’s a learning curve. There’s a couple of things (laughs) I’d like to take back, but fuck, I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today. You gotta go in the mud sometimes to figure out who you are. I’ve had my fair share of hills and valleys, but life’s been radical and exciting. Stuff that kings would die to do. Straight-up, fuckin A. The lifestyle we’ve got and the lifestyle I’ve led since I was 17, I couldn’t even tell my friends. I try and tell stories and they think I’m making it up or I saw it in a fucken movie. Straight up. It’s the life I wanted since I caught my first wave.”

Hit here to put a little money in via Kickstarter. 

Watch the full-length theatrical trailer below.

Keanu Asing wins Quiksilver Pro France
Asing dropped a classic quote during his interview with Mel. "My body's little. Running up the sand and stuff, it's hard."

Film: Death in the Afternoon!

The Keanu Asing story! An underdog adventure that will leave you breathless! In theaters soon!

And is you heart still fluttering over Keanu Asing’s World Championship Tour victory? How could it not be! I think one of the greatest sporting stories of all time. The little Hawaiian, plugging away, slashing here, bashing there, down a champ, down a champ, everywhere a down champ!

Oh I love great sport’s sporting stories, especially the underdog sort, and I love when Hollywood makes them into emotionally powerful films.

Hoosiers, Rudy, A League of Their Own, Remember the Titans, Slap Shot, The Bad News Bears, White Men Can’t Jump, Major League, Million Dollar Baby…

I could go on all day and I CANNOT WAIT until Death in the Afternoon: The Keanu Asing Quiksilver Pro France 2016 Story comes out.

Did you know the leading roles have already been cast?


Our hero Keanu Asing will be played by the one, the only Hervé Villechaize obvs.


John John Florence by the emotionally diverse, facially compacted, Evan Jones (seen here in Jarhead).


Gabriel “Gabi” Medina by the very theatrical Billy Zane (in wig of course). Just think of the claims this thespian will be able conjure! Just imagine how life-like the hot tears rolling down his cheeks will seem!


Kelly Slater will play himself.


Keanu’s corner man, Fox marketing manager and world’s best person Frankie D’Andrea will be played by Khal Drogo.


Joe Turpel will be played by a bar of natural, artisanal handmade soap.


And Martin Potter by the world famous Grumpy Cat.

How long will you wait outside the theater to get your tickets?

And, FYI, there is already early Oscar buzz for the natural, artisanal handmade soap. A few critics who have seen some dailies claim that the essence of Mr. Turpel is captured effortlessly.

Warshaw: “Contest won by total nobody!”

Is Keanu Asing the most obscure contest winner ever? Matt Warshaw says, "No!"

Has the thrill worn off today’s Keanu Asing’s World Championship Tour victory yet? It hasn’t for me. The just under three-footer popped off John John Florence and Gabriel Medina in back to back heats to take Quiksilver Pro trophy and hold it high high above his head.

But it made me wonder. Is the Li’l Frangipani the most obscure contest winner of all time? And you know what that means…


Surfing’s living treasure and I happened to be talking on the phone when the question arose and right away he said:

“No. Ricardo Tatui won… I think it was the same contest in 1994. I was not known as a real contest coverage guy but for some reason I was at that one. There were these tiny little sand bar lefts. It was a dumb little contest and won by a complete nobody.”

Jamie Brisick, maybe the best surf author ever, fills in the detail:

There’s not a hell of a lot to tell. The waves were small and meek. The tide was high so it was inconsistent. Booth surfed with power and style. Tati surfed at the edge of himself — more flick and less composed. Nothing to really sink your teeth into. Tati was supercharged, Booth too mature for the conditions, and the trinity of Australia, America, and Hawaii that’s been making all the noise for all these years has to move it on over. The winner was announced and the samba music played.

I ask Matt, “Was he Brazilian?”

And he responds, “Brazilian but with blonde hair.”

Later, after we hung up, he emailed the following bit:

Tatui beat Slater in Round Two, in decent head-high Grande Plage surf. In finals against, Jeff Booth, surf was tiny left-handers. Also worth noting: One week earlier, at Rip Curl Pro Hossegor, event won by Flavio Padaratz. So when Tatui won, it was the first time EVER that Brazil won two events in a row. Also looks like poor Ricardo totally haired out at Pipe.

Matt wrote in a 1995 Surfer magazine top 44 review:

The Quiksilver result probably saved Tatui’s professional career. Had a shot at the Top 44 at the end of 1993, but haired out of the Pipe Masters and fell to 45th. Ridiculed in Brazil. Channel-sat in this year’s Masters as well, but already had the magic win in France and a fresh start.

Does a Brazilian hairing out at Pipeline surprise you?

Do you think the Li’l Frangipani will enter our gilded history as a strange footnote or do you think this is the start of a new dynasty?

Also, did you like the lesbian kitsch Russian band Tatu?

John John Florence Twelve
Frontside diz into reverse. A novel touch to an old classic.

Watch Ep #4: John John in Twelve!

The meditative nature of yachting! It's beautiful!

Briefly, brave little Hawaiian Keanu Asing is the toast of Hossegor and of world surfing. And let’s sing and do little dances on the spot and praise Jesus and so forth because there is nothing more edifying than watching a man defy the longest odds in sporting history.

But, if we zoom out, we must concede that there is one surfer, above all, who matters. And that is, of course, and obviously, John John Florence. His seven-part web series Twelve, made by Bill Ballard, and peerless I believe in its ability to strike a narrative, continues its excellent form in episode four.

We sail with John John along the Hawaiian coast, cut to a narration by John on the meditative nature of yachting, and of surfing, of their essential, and complimentary, simplicity.

“Surfing and sailing, it’s doesn’t seem like there’s any limits. You’re trying to learn about a natural force that’s never the same. It’s going to scare you at times and it’s going to be the most beautiful things at times. But. The most exciting thing about the ocean is you don’t know what’s coming. It’s all being an artist in your own way and being creative in your own lines.”

Surfing? Yeah, it’s nuts, too.