Damn Orange County is, in the right light, one of the better joints you could live if you surf.
It’s more than Trestles, of course, although Lower Trestles is something very special, but on its fifty-mile stretch there are little round tubes to crouch under at Salt Creek, the peaks of HB, wedges at Newport so big they make a booming noise when they hit the shore like the explosion of shells and, my favourite, the Riveria section of San Clemente. Walk up the beach, find a peak, do your thing. And all under that crisp Californian sun.
What used to please me about Orange County was its negligible population of potentially troublesome Great White sharks. Sharks? The OC? Forget about it.
In the last few years, Great Whites have become synonymous with this stretch of coastline. Whether, as experts say it’s the natural result of protection or a healthier ecosystem (more seals and seal lions) is immaterial, really, because they ain’t going anywhere and therefore the OC surfer must live with this fact.
“The Southern California coastline has seen an influx of sharks close to shore in recent years, groups of dozens and more gathering in “hot spots,” first noticed frequently near surfers and swimmers in the South Bay, Santa Monica and Ventura about six years ago, then showing up in Huntington, Surfside Beach and Seal Beach in higher-than-normal numbers about four years ago.
“Last summer, a group of juvenile sharks took residence in shallow waters off Long Beach, as well as further south off Dana Point and San Clemente. Their presence made headlines and even led to the creation of shark tours to give people up-close looks at the predators.
“Dana Wharf Whale Watching launched “Shark Searches” last year to give spectators an up-close look at the sharks, selling out seats week after with week. Manager Donna Kalez said that if sightings do increase, early-morning whale watching charters may start also looking for sharks.”
Shark tours! Just like Cape Town or Port Lincoln.
What a thrill it must be to go from sleepy surf town to global Great White hotspot.
Anyone out there from the OC?
Are you proud of this new designation?
Are you thrilled to be an active participant in the oceanic food chain?
The physical benefits of surfing have been, I think, clearly defined. It is good to be outside, not too difficult on the joints, burns a few calories and provides for short bursts of increased heart rate. That is mostly all. Every so often a therapist will come around and claim that surfing is good for PTSD or helps children with cystic fibrosis and while I don’t entirely doubt, still maintain healthy skepticism.
Surfing is fun but not real exercise.
Except two days ago the iconic Garden & Gun magazine posted an excellent story about the NLand Surf Park in Austin, Texas that is making me re-evaluate. Shall we read a snippet?
Around the end of last summer, Doug Coors realized that a dream he’d chased for decades had finally become a reality. The fifty-year-old great-great-grandson of Adolph Coors, of banquet beer fame, had caught the surfing bug in Hawaii in his early twenties. As a lifelong Coloradan, though, he couldn’t surf as often as he wanted. An engineer by trade, he had started sketching ideas for an inland surf park that would let him and other landlocked surfers ride waves year-round. His designs never proved viable, but he held on to the dream and kept looking for ways to make it happen.
Now, as he stood on a 160-acre piece of scrubby ranch land a few miles east of Austin, Coors looked out from a wide pier across a man-made lagoon the size of nine football fields, where seventy or eighty people on colorful boards were riding perfectly formed head-high waves that rolled across the water over and over again. Children were picking up new skills during weeklong surf camps in the gentler parts of the lagoon. There were guests who’d flown in from Florida and California, locals who’d become regulars—even one who, over the course of the season, had lost sixty pounds from his frequent surfing.
Sixty pounds is a proper amount of weight. Like real and it makes me wonder if surfing should/could be used as a magical new fad diet? There is money in them fad diet hills.
While I have you, it’s funny how much I think about Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch and how little I think about Austin’s NLand but it seems as if the experiment is working, and working well, in Texas. Seventy or eighty people in the water at a time? Plus, if you read the story, a craft brewery and above average hamburger? It sounds successful. But tell me, have you been? Did you enjoy?
And before you leave. What could we make proprietary about our new surfing fad diet? Boards with weighted undersides? Wetsuits that heat up to 200 degrees to melt those pounds away?
Review: “I’ve never ridden a board so easy to shred on!”
I picked up the Wave Slave from the Stacey Factory in a Currumbin industrial estate, near neighbours with the Balter beer brewery and a collection of panel beaters and mechanics and other small factories. The talk is always how manufacturing is dead in Australia and yet these thriving small industrial hubs seem to be everywhere in our coastal regions.
Beer and surfboards: a recipe to Make Australia Great Again? I read Wave Slave as Wage Slave which gave me a chuckle, seeing as I am a contractor and a freelancer; the lowest of the low, apart from the now almost extinct coastal dole bludger.
Lee Stacey is a Shaper/Board Builder working in the high-performance space whose boards feel like they have been around forever. First thought when fondled the Wave Slave was, ‘Whoa, Simon Anderson Energy thruster 1981.’ It carries a heavy imprint of the DNA of the early thruster: wide, thick tail block, volume throughout the board, a full rail. At six-o mine felt a little generously proportioned and if I had bought off the rack I would have gone down an inch or two but that doesn’t bother me a bit. I like to feel my ride, I like cushion in my ride. Volume is a choice, a preference, above all, a fashion statement. It comes in and out. I like ’em thin and curvy in Indo, better paddlers if I’m nabbing a few after work and fighting a sweep and the clock. Gabe Medina showed at Bells what extra volume can do as far as getting rid of the defects in style.
I drove the board straight from Currumbin to Lennox Point, waxed it (badly) and paddled out in three-to-four-foot point surf. Bit ratty and mediocre but probably still better than most testing tracks in the world. I finned it up with what was in the back of the Camry, front fins for a quad and a medium rear fin. Straight up, first wave that wide, thick tail-block got out of the hole and planed like an overpowered bass boat. But I had no drive. I went A to C instead of A to B, if you get my drift, which I mean literally.
Fins are considered the epitome of the modern fractured-bullshit marketing universe we inhabit,but I hold a contra view. Even though they are. According to the Greenough school ofdesign thought, to which I subscribe, good design is fine tuning. “Just about anything will work if the handling is tuned in.”
Very quickly and imperceptibly the board disappeared under my feet, in the sense that I had to give it no thought. I’ve never ridden a board so easy to shred on. Sometime in the opening session I popped and landed perfectly a clean backside air, only the second one in my career as a – I prefer the term “competent” surfer to the more accurate and devastating “upper intermediate” – lifelong recreational donkey.
Two ways available for the rec surfer to tune the handling in. Through customisation of the whole package in a surfer/shaper relationship or, more easily, tinkering with the engine room, i.e fins.
I’m no fin guru but I know what I like, and I know what works. Wave Slave wanted more fin area to give more control over the planing area in the tail block. The extremely helpful and knowledgeable man at the factory, Liam, had suggested a large upright fin and to stay away from too much rake. De-finning a twinzer with a large, hand-foiled fin I took the Wave Slave straight back to the Point with the larger fins.
The difference was profound.
The planing area was now under my command. Very quickly and imperceptibly the board disappeared under my feet, in the sense that I had to give it no thought. In my mind I nicknamed the board the Eazy Shredda, because I’ve never ridden a board so easy to shred on. The learning curve for anyone with a basic skill set is insignificant. Sometime in the opening session I popped and landed perfectly a clean backside air, only the second one in my career as a – I prefer the term “competent” surfer to the more accurate and devastating “upper intermediate” – lifelong recreational donkey.
Does your quiver tend to the specialist or the generalist?
Under the house, mine is a bewildering array of specialised equipment: bonzers, twinzers, channel-bottom quads, high-volume guns, single fins, semi guns etc etc. All an attempt to answer some specific question at a specific break for a certain set of conditions, or some exploration down a rabbit hole of design theory. Each board painstakingly “mastered” then filed away for the right moment.
The missing link was a generalist high-perf sled, which I’d avoided due to self-defeating contrarian tendencies and a schizophrenic relationship to high performance. By that way of thinking the answer to crowds and commercialism was to deliberately hobble your own surfing, a kind of surfboard nihilism that has somehow become a fashion statement and been brilliantly co-opted by the surf-industrial complex. Nowadays I cleave more to the famous statement of surf journalist Nick Carroll when he proclaimed, “High performance is a gift from the Gods and woe betide those who refuse that gift”.
In over two months, the lower or upper limit of the Slave’s range have remained unknown to me. That is because the surf has been two-to-four-foot, mostly mediocre, every day since then and that fits perfectly in the boards remit. I imagine you could push it lower and higher very easily. The board has remained what it was in the opening session: the easiest of high-performance shredders. It is a very demure, discreet surf companion. It demands little and offers much.
Going about my lawful occasion in the day-to-day I hear of many, many good men and good women struggling with surfboards, rationalising their quivers.
Are you a quiver rationaliser? I admit this way of thinking is alien to me (unless the tax man is threatening to send the debt collectors around). I like to accumulate surfboards the way an Old Testament potentate would accumulate children; as a measure of wealth and plenitude.*
Even though it is psychologically unsound I would just as soon rationalise my own family as rationalise my quiver.
Clean your teeth my son, you’re on Gumtree today. Chin up, I’m sure you’ll go to a good, more fashionable family.**
If you are one of those despised quiver rationalisers then may I suggest that the original DNA of the thruster is a very good place to start for the generalist shredder and high-performance building block. Andrew Kidman told me wide tails are the go for finding easy planing speed and then the question is dialing in the control. Not a hard task in the 21st century.
*My answer to environmental footprint. I never throw them away! They never end up in landfill.
(Editor’s note: As part of these board reviews, which are paid although no guarantee is given of the outcome, we’ve employed a world-class pro surfer, who is masked, to give us a little high-end shredding, as entertainment. See below.)
Australia is wonderful but too much of a good thing is still too much!
I don’t know what my problem is but the 2018 edition of the World Surf League Championship Tour is leaving me very very cold. I don’t know if it is because shoulder surgery has kept me out of the water for two months (and counting) or if it is because Pipeline has been sacrificed or if it is because I want my Kelly Slater but I am going to blame Australia.
I love that big ‘ol racist continent more than any place on earth but come on for pity’s sake. Three events? In a row? We start at Snapper all bright eye’d and excited. The unimpeded by ozone sun shines its ample light on pre-cancerous boys and girls. Julian Wilson exemplifies. Then we drag down to Bells where grey the grey of a child molester’s over-washed undershirt colors the sky, the water, the people’s faces as they empty their pockets to watch a hunchback generate speed. Mick Fanning exemplifies. Then we drag across the entire Simpson Desert to a wine town called Margaret River. It is beautiful n stuff and as wild as a Coffey Sister but come on. I suppose Jack Robinson exemplifies but three events? In a row?
So I’m cold. I’m bored. The only things putting a pep in my step are Longtom’s contest wraps. I don’t know how he does it, to be honest, and someday a first edition The Collected Works of Longtom 2017-2020 will be sold at auction for $12,000.
The same will not be true for this podcast here but it is, anyhow, worth a listen. The same will not be true for this podcast here but it is, anyhow, worth a listen. David Lee Scales and I chat about sex tapes, mostly, with a little bit of Italo Ferriera thrown in for good measure.
Does the name Martin Daly ring a bell? You might remember him as the skipper of the Indies Trader, the forty-five-year-old former salvage boat Marty used to explore the Mentawai Islands, revealing the remarkable archipelago slowly over a decade. First with Rip Curl’s The Search movie series and peaking, I think, with Jeff Hornbaker’s No Destination and The Holeat the end of the nineties.
The first time I heard of Marty and the Mentawais was in the early part of that decade when I saw a handful of film snapshots of Martin Potter and Tom Carroll on the biggest, cleanest waves I’d seen outside of Hawaii.
Fifteen years later the joint was overrun with charter boats and, now, the flotilla resembles a navy fleet as it steams from wave to wave, each captain pressured to give his paying clientele some sort of profound surf experience. It still has its moments but it ain’t nothing like it was when Marty and his pals first came to town.
“It’s getting more and more depressing. The rainforests are cut down, the reefs are dying again. It’s an absolute shitfight,” says Marty, “I saw a proposal for a multi-billion dollar project in southern Siberut (the biggest of the Mentawai islands, which are off Sumatra) that had ferris wheels and water slides. Like Benoa in Bali on growth hormones. And they’re trying to turn the area around Telescopes and North Sipora (the smallest of the Mentawai islands) into Kuta. You think people would learn a lesson. No, they don’t.”
As for Marty being largely responsible for its popularity, he says, “Maybe at some stage in the early days I was partially to blame, but my responsibility to the exploitation of the Mentawais ended in 1995. I went back to the Mentawais after The Crossing (A Quiksilver-funded around-the-world promo trip on the Indies Trader, from 1998 to 2005) but I felt like I’d had my turn. And this place…this place… kept luring me back.”
Marty, who is now sixty one, is talking about his little slice of the Marshall Islands, specifically Beran Island, a twenty-hour sail from Majuro, the republic’s capital city.
“I know what the ocean and the reefs are supposed to look like. I grew up diving pristine reefs, reefs without names when I was a kid in Townsville in Queensland. When I was on The Crossing I went everywhere, dove everywhere and I saw that ninety-five percent of the world’s reefs were impacted. Two thirds were actually gone or dead. Put your head underwater here and you see what’s supposed to be here.”
Near Beran island he found a righthander, which Marty called Nirvana (“The best thing I’ve ever seen”) and “like a typical human being when I first came here I sat on the beach and thought, I’ll put a treehouse here, a wharf here, I could build bungalows here. And I said to myself, ‘What sort of fuckwit are you? You spend your whole life looking for Nirvana, you find it, and the first thing you want to do is destroy it.”
Eventually, he decided, yeah, he’ll do something but he’d learn from lessons past and make something he calls “a shining light of responsible development.”
So he built an off-the-grid lodge for sixteen people, powered by wind turbines and solar panels. All of the rubbish the lodge creates is processed and all non-biodegradable refuse is taken back to Majuro’s dump furnaces and its recycling centre. He grows watermelons, papaya, tomatoes, kale, catches a ton of fish and even keeps a few hogs.
I asked Marty how much the joint is worth and he says it has a valuation, now, of around five million dollars.
He says his great trial is making a business while sticking to core values, “which is a compromise but hopefully we can walk a line down the middle between exploration and exploitation.”
Marty looks out the window, which he tells me via sat phone. There’s been no wind here for two weeks and the surf has been four-foot and firing.
“You never get sick of it. If you were standing here you’d go, ‘Oh my god, mate.’ It’s everything a bloke could want: great surf, great diving, the reefs are alive, it’s not fishing it’s catching, so we never run out of fresh fish. It’s stupid.”
“Password protected so the great unwashed don’t go looking at all the surf breaks,” he says.
Marty says when he does leave the Marshalls now, which he does periodically, he finds the State’s interference in our lives confronting. “I hate leaving this place. I feel like the guy on Apocalypse Now (Colonel Kurtz). This is my universe and I’m in charge of it. No one is screwing with me. You don’t realise how much you get screwed on a daily basis until you’re not screwed at all. The TSA making me take my shoes off. That’s confronting. Here I’m completely independent of the universe.
“Fuck,” says Marty, “I’ve died and gone to heaven.