Jen See croons a gorgeous ode to California’s fifth most famous wave!

Wanna go for a ride?

You can imagine me paddling out at Rincon today.

You can imagine the glowing cat-eye green of the waves and the cloud-painted sky overhead. You can imagine the sharp bite of the barnacles and the way the stones shift and tilt under foot. You can imagine the way I almost fell awkwardly, but I saved it just in time. The white fall light. The boards piled on the beach. The inevitable pot smoke.

You can imagine the speed of a low-tide zipper plucked off the sandbar. Steer the board to the very top of the wave and hang there, suspended. You can imagine me laughing right then, laughing at the pointless joy of it. And then turning, because why not. Pretend the final section is a barrel, even if it’s not, not really. Go on, imagine.

A couple weeks back, I drank coffee with Chas. I’d gone south to pick up an alaia, a beautifully thing shaped by Christine Caro from Paulownia wood. No, I can’t ride them. Maybe someday I’ll try to learn, when I’m done obsessing about tiny-ass twinfins. (Yes, I’m still obsessed. I might need an intervention. But it goes so fast! Squee!)

Get you a girl that’ll drive the 405 for you. Get you a girl who’ll pick up your boards. I drove the 405, music cranked in my rented minivan, boards stacked in the back. Hat on backwards. Punk rock sing-along. This would be an embarrassing way to die, I thought. Fuck it, keep driving.

Sitting there at the coffee shop in Cardiff, we could see the first northwest swell of the season building long, beautiful lines. A dreamscape. I’d paddled out quickly within reach of the coffee shop. I am bad at waking up in time for things, bad at mornings altogether. I surfed a quick heat in jumbled high tide. Salt water hair. Sand-dusted toes.

I always imagine you paddling out at Rincon, Chas said. I flapped my arms vaguely, as though to agree, as though to say maybe, or maybe not. A girl has to have some secrets. Later on, I taunted him with photos. Somewhere in California. No directions, no names. Places spoken of in whispers, known, but not quite.

But Rincon sits hard by the freeway, not so much of a whisper as a scream. It’s a weird quirk of California that we build freeways next to beaches, but that’s how it is. Today I watched idly from the lineup as a train raced a semi. The train tracks run parallel to the freeway. It’s the only flat ground around. The train won.

It’s been a slow fall, and that first northwest that Chas and I watched, came and went, a cruel tease. I’d walk down to the beach, hopeful. But no, not yet. Storms drifted into our swell window on the ten-day models, then disappeared. Instead of winter, we have endless fire. Here we are, dancing on the edge of it.

Imagine me at Rincon today, doing laps around the parking lot, looking for a spot. Imagine the angry Tacoma tailgating my VW on the road to the beach. I don’t understand the people who somehow think that tailgating an old VW is going to make me drive faster. This all we got, brah. It doesn’t go any faster. Imagine my boards piled in the front seat, all snug and cozy. Who wouldn’t want to drive to the beach with a couple surfboards tucked in right there next to you? I love the stupid things so much.

Imagine people circling, looking for parking, as I sit, car door open, drinking my coffee and finishing my muffin. Lemon poppy-seed, my favorite. Hogging a Rincon parking spot, just to finish my coffee. I’m an asshole. But chill! So very chill. And then I slide my boards out of the car, slip into my backpack, and head down the trail.

There’s always that magic moment when you make the final turn and see the first set roll in. There are views that are better in this world, but not too many. I pick my way through the rocks, past the house where a man once yelled at me for putting my boards to close to his fence. As though it really matters, as though he didn’t have enough already.

I’d brought two boards, an approach I don’t recommend. I stare at the lineup much longer than I should, trying to decide. Just bring one board, paddle it out, and go surfing. Simple. Sometimes I’m as bad at simple as I am at waking up early and choosing road trip music. I shimmy into a wetsuit and flail with a bar of wax that fell out of the box. I lost my ear plugs and keep forgetting to replace them. It’s one less thing to remember, at least.

Imagine the sun high overhead and the warm rocks under your toes and the steady beat of anticipation. Sure, it’s crowded. It’s always crowded. But isn’t it worth it? Not everyday and not every time, certainly. But isn’t it worth it to slip away and fly free, to dance, weightless.

Just this once, maybe it was.


Revelation: John John Florence is set to become the most beguiling surfer in history!

Besting Slater, Curren and Dora!

I’ve been chewing on a delicious piece of gristle for the past week courtesy of the world’s foremost and only surf historian Matt Warshaw. He and Derek Rielly’s conversations have, since the very beginning, been my favorite part about this little website. Each is finer than the last and the last was very fine. They discussed Gerry Lopez turning 70, modern myth making etc. and Matt also listed his five pantheon of greatest surfers in order.

Duke, Dora, Lopez, Slater, Curren.

Now, we both could and should have fun creating the definitive list but I had a thought this morning and I believe it to be a true thought. If John John Florence continues along his current path would he not be the most intriguing, the most beguiling surfer in all of history? And let me explain.

John John was born in the surf imagination. He arrived, fully formed as a long-hair’d Monchichi there on Oahu’s North Shore dazzling onlookers with his preternatural talents. It’s ever so rare to witness a prodigy transition easily through adolescence into adulthood, take the case of Macaulay Culkin, but John John did. He somehow made it onto the Championship Tour without looking foolish groveling in Japanese beachbreak, won back to back titles gracefully and now he is sailing and paddling around the world, dropping in to release clips that expand the very nature of what we love.

He has made surfing fit into his own dream, getting paid a fortune while wearing it lightly, surfing brilliantly but never with a chip on his shoulder. Dane’s greatness, if you would permit a comparison, is that he is human all too human. That last “things I hate” feature was so brilliant because it highlighted Dane’s internal dichotomies. His wrestle with meaning. John’s transcendence over struggle, though, puts him in a category of his own.

Likewise, when compared with Lopez. Of course the zen master narrative is gorgeous but there are enough stories floating around of the great Gerry snapping and growling that it has always felt slightly manufactured. Not by Lopez, necessarily, but my us.

John John’s narrative is… effortless. And isn’t effortlessness the very pinnacle of this Peruvian dance? This surfing?

Thus, I would argue that if John John Florence continues on his current path, whatever that path is as long as it doesn’t include one drop of sweat on his brow, he will become the most beguiling surfer in the pantheon and second only, in terms of greatness, to Duke.


The surfers that defined the nineties. How many Momentum flunkies can you see and name? Oh, I can see sleepy-eyed Ross Williams, Chris "Elmer Fudd" Malloy, Shane Doz, Todd Prestage, Jason Mags, Kelly Slater. Missing is that handsome little South American boy who used to be Jamie O'Brien's best pal, I think (far left).

From the liver-spotted-nostalgia-department: “Why the ’90s still give me a high-grade kick!”

Progression comes through a respect of the past etc.

As sure as the seasons pass, the retro fashion wheel has spun back to the nineties. We got Mikey’s mullet. Noa’s voluminous denim shorts. Black Beauties. Creed McTaggart’s Billabong line that looks like it’s straight out of the Sonic Youth 1991 European summer tour.

We even got the Momentum Generation, Slater, Doz and pals, all teary deary  and wistful. 

However. And there’s always gotta be a however. For a lot of people who remember surfing through the ‘90s, it was actually pretty shit.

And that’s the funny thing about nostalgia.

It can even make bad times seem good.

Think about it: the narrow and curved boards that worked in good waves or for the top .1% of surfers worldwide, but were terrible for anything or anyone else. The wetsuit rash that had to be treated like third-degree burns. The full-deck grips that rashed worse than gravel. Peak localism.

So why do the nineties still thrill me? 

I’ve never felt happier to surf my 6’6″ x 18 ¼ on a four-foot day at home. Old VHS collections have taken on the same reverential and utility value as the Rosetta Stone. The kids are dressed in Centrelink-chic. Tribal tatts are right back in. If my complete collection of 1994 Hot Gold collectors surfing cards can regain their value the holy ratio will be complete.

What is it that makes us look so doe-eyed to the past when things are so much better here in the future?

Well, could be a few things.

Maybe it’s because the aggressive lines and bladed-up boards being lionised are panacea to the safety turns and high-volume Hypto dads flooding the lineups today.

Maybe it’s because we are all realising just how truly far ahead of the curve the likes of Margo, Occy and Herring were.

Or maybe it’s because everything in this world seems so scrambled, so damn confusing, the innocence of the past places a calming hand on our own and whispers in a deep, soothing voice, everything used to be okay.

I get the appeal.

In fact, I’m responsible for peddling it daily (@surfads). But is it as good as the real thing?

Or are are we just blindly regurgitating facsimiles of what that era was because we can’t appreciate what’s in front of us now?

Yes, and no.

Progression comes through respecting the past. It’s taking the best of what used to work and applying it in a modern context. For the current new wave that’s rocker and length. The importance of the bottom turn (death to the double pump!) Occ’s Torque. The Herro crouch. Margo’s engage and release on a long rail line.

And this.

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@billabong homegrown clip out now

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Good surfing will always be timeless. Looking to the past is more important than ever when pushing into the future.

Rituals must be preserved, songlines kept in tact.

But confusing or not, there’s beauty in the present day too: unlimited progression, elevated collective consciousness, a Cambrian explosions of wave riding forms. Ignoring that is as futile as trying to take the blue out of the sky.

And it’ll make great #content for Instagram in 2035.

So what other trends that we haven’t seen since the ‘90 need to come back?

Should noseguards be revisited?

Paddle gloves?

Grom abuse?

Recessionist politics? 

(Now, here’s the classic that kicked off the whole damn era.)

 


Revealed: The very worst commercial to feature surfing of all time!

Jeep pulls out all the stops!

Remember how we weren’t going to be jaded anymore? Well, I gave it a good 45 minute go but didn’t have any fun so let’s just go back to cynically sniping at everything without providing real value to anything.

Is that ok?

And I remember, a few months ago, receiving many emails and texts about how horrible the new Jeep commercial that plays during World Surf League broadcasts was. I looked around for something but all the Jeep adverts seemed equally horrible to me but just right now I tuned into the Vans Triple Crown feat. Chris Cote and saw it!

Or I’m guessing saw it. This one that starts… “Waves aren’t the only thing I surf….”

Then continues…

“I surf the air. I surf roads, lanes and alleys. I surf dirt and mud and muck. Drop in on mountainsides and carve through valleys. I rip forested trails, pull aerials in the sand. I surf the ocean. I surf adventure. I surf it all.”

Hahahaha!

I seriously haven’t had a belly laugh like that since this morning when I read the phrase “pumped to the point of ecstasy.”

Really really good stuff. Who do you think came up with the copy? Do you think it came straight out of the World Surf League or did Jeep hire a Venice-adjacent agency?

“I surf my unpaid parking tickets. I surf the cold medicine, flu medicine, insulin shots. I surf gender discrimination and racial discrimination and religious discrimination and sexual discrimination. I pull aerials over Brexit…”

I surf it all.


From the being-jaded-is-so-last-year Dept: New group of surfers “pumped to the point of ecstasy!”

Come meet Whitewash Warrior, Barrel Queen, Biggest Stoke and Biggest Kahunas!

How easy it is to be all jaded, waking up in the morning with the cup half full, sarcastically sniping this and that. It is the easiest thing of all and sometimes I forget the youthful passions of surf. The way a set on the horizon jolts the heart, the way a fresh bar of wax can transport a crusty soul into the ether.

Could we all make our New Year’s Resolution early? And have the resolution be that we’ll approach surfing in 2019 like new mothers in Perth, Australia? Let’s read about them!

“It’s euphoric. I feel totally relaxed and at complete peace with the world. I feel empowered,” says Claire Romea-Gorton, 10 years after she took an iconic Aussie male activity and shook it out like a sandy beach towel.

Today, 84 like-minded mums (and the odd welcome dad) are giving it a vigorous shake as they gather regularly on the Perth coast to surf and follow the ancient concept of using the whole village to raise their children. The feisty women, with salt water in their veins, sea breezes in their hair and passion in their hearts, are a proud tribe, one which offers strength and comfort as they bond together in a unity that is highly infectious, as well as palpable.

Stumble across the group of women frolicking with toddlers in the sand at Trigg, and at first glance they appear to be waiting patiently, Puberty Blues-style, for their surfer dudes, 100m offshore, shredding the early- morning waves.

However, when the exhilarated “dudes” come ashore, tossing their long wet hair, smiling from ear to ear and greeting their kids, they turn out to be bikini-wearing wahines nicknamed Whitewash Warrior, Barrel Queen, Biggest Stoke and Biggest Kahunas.

Some are in the advanced stages of pregnancy and some are still breastfeeding. All are pumped to the point of ecstasy and appear to be talking in tongues. “I’m stoked.” “Your drop was epic.” “You looked awesome out there.” “That was one sick wave.”

Their tribe is called Surfing Mums, the peak body for surfing families across Australia.

You must finish the rest of this story here but before I forget, I had a dream that Derek, Steve Shearer and I were fishing off the back of a boat last night. Nick Carroll may have been there too. It was all standard fare, surf chat stuff. Steve was impressed that I could cast and I even hooked something. The boat swung wide, my fish swam straight still on the line. It must have been a place like Thailand where there are floating docks everywhere because Steve and I got off the boat and followed the line through the water, me still holding the pole, and discovered that it went into a little shack. “Oh no…” Steve told me. It looks like the Bra Boys got your fish. That’s their cooking shack. I wanted to see what kind of fish it was so knocked politely on the door. It was answered, moments later, by a tattooed toothless man with a shaved head. I said, “I know you have my fish and that’s ok. Finders keepers etc. but could I just see it?” He nodded and walked me into the cramped space overflowing with pots and pans. I saw my fish there and it was hideous, like one of those monsters from the deep. I thanked him and left.

What does this dream mean?

And what is your new surf nickname going to be? I choose Ouch My Shoulder.