It's a fire sale!
You’ve no doubt read the book Cocaine + Surfing by now. Maybe you even own it. If you do not own it but would like to stick it to the man you can today and all of March because it is Amazon’s pick of the month and on sale for $1.99. Now, normally I wouldn’t care but Amazon ranks its books and I’m always behind Finnegan and the Hamiltons (Bethany and Laird). For just one day I’d like to have cocaine soaring above their heads. Maybe $1.99 will push me over the top.
And if you’d like a taste…
Pushing through the door I am once again enveloped in a scene that has played out the exact same for the past forever. A messy knot of people pushing toward the bar and toward the bathroom with equal force. Too close, too loud for talking. Too much talking. Nose rubbing. Chatty, conspiratorial, ecstatic, depressed, ecstatic, chatty. Conspiratorial.
It’s always snowing in Orange County, or so they say.
I try to press toward the bar but am intercepted by a very dapper industry bro holding an extra vodka-something. I take it from him and he says, “Yeah, Chas…” while nodding slowly and flashing a half smile. In another world his face would belong to a heartthrob singer or an actor or a model, or at the very least a teeth model. His teeth are impossibly straight and white. It would have to be assumed that they are veneers but they are not. They are real and blindingly white and so straight. I can’t take my eyes off of them an probably look weird when I respond, “Howzit…” while staring at his mouth.
In another world his very handsome face would pinned to the bedroom walls of teenaged girls, or orthodontists. In this world it does sales for the surf forecasting website Surfline and before that it was surf team manager for a surf shoe brand called Globe.
And surf industry genetics are a thing to behold. Inside it may seem the surf industry bro is a vacuum, an empty vessel, even though his heart is racing for his true and ancient love. Outside, though, he is almost perfect. Always lean, always tan, always well-proportioned, always salty ideally tousled hair, though usually a little short.
Why? The surf industry bro doesn’t grow food or build things or know things. Why then has evolution gifted such a worthless cultural appendage such genetic superiority? I don’t really know, though think it has something to do with the surf industry’s Mecca being Orange County. A place that molds its population after itself: pretty and vapid.
This particular surf industry bro, the one possessing the beyond handsome face and perfect teeth, and I chat empty surf talk for a minute. “You surf today? Sick. Where? Etc.” and then he asks me what I’m working on next—after “that Hawaii book.”
I tell him, “Cocaine plus surfing…it’s a love story.”
His nod doesn’t change rhythm nor does his smile change intensity and he says, “Yeah. Well, you won’t have any shortage of material,” before pushing off into the sweaty pit.
I watch, thinking about his teeth and wondering what career avenues open for a man with perfect teeth, but those thoughts are interrupted by an angry mouth too close to my ear. “These fuckers. These fucking fuckers taking Surfing away from us…fucking…fuckers. They wanted us to fail so they could shift our image archive away and sell it for millions of dollars and fuck us out of our rights. Now they won’t have to pay us, any of us, for reusing shots. Fucking…”
A damned surf photographer. I nod and say, “Yeah, totally,” before shuffling back toward the bar. I want to leave already but am really trying to honor my journey, trying to be a good surf journalist for the first time in my life. Trying to uncover little specifics in the world’s greatest love story. Like, asking people questions and stuff. I just got done asking Surfing’s ex Editor-in-Chief, Taylor Paul, if he likes cocaine. He looked at me all pucker-faced and said, “No. Are you kidding me? I hate the stuff. It makes everyone so…lame.”
I suppose he is the exception to the rule. After all, he is from Santa Cruz, and most Santa Cruz surfers love methamphetamine.
I’d just got done asking an intern who works for the extreme sport sock company Stance if she has any cocaine. She said no while looking at me like I was a total idiot by subverting the social order. I was supposed to be telling her I had cocaine. Stance is one of the only companies thriving in the surf space though, so I thought it was a fair question.
I then asked a part-time professional surfer part-time DJ if he wanted cocaine. He said, “Sure…” then got angry when I told him I didn’t have any.
And I really should have left an hour ago. It is too late and now I am depressed and caught in the conspiratorial web of another surf photographer who is even more furious than the last that Surfing magazine got shut down and is insisting that the magazine was actually making money and doing well. The crowd is still thick and getting sloppy.
It would impossible to guess if his rant, or the rant before his, is cocaine infused because most surf photographers are, by nature, conspiratorial. Someone is always stealing their art. No one is ever paying them enough. Everyone in this whole damned industry has profited and profited handsomely except them. In their collective mind they are getting fucked. Always getting fucked and always ready to snap about it, though I once carried a surf photographer’s backpack across a mile of beach and instantly understood surf photographer rage. The backpack weighed 250 lbs. The sand was scorching hot. It was like a forced march and all surf photographers should be paid reparations by the brands for their servitude.
“…fucking saw one of my shots being used by fucking Rip Curl on their Instagram feed…gonna fucking kill someone…”
The surf photographer rage and victimization complex is extreme but also mirrors the way most surfers feel about the surf industry. Surfers love surfing and reckon it such a pure love. Such a rush, such a kick. Such a high. But then they start looking around and seeing more and more people riding waves alongside them and they turn into strange possessive Gollums, hating other surfers, stealing their waves, getting high off their waves, fucking other surfers and hating the industry that is built around selling their personal dream. So much like the last boy with a baggie of cocaine at a dying party. Such hiding in the bathroom. Such suspicion of everyone and everything.