My neck tan is fading, my hair is turning brown, the surf is flat. Relentlessly, aggressively flat. I look at the satellite photos and watch as lows twirl deliriously off the coast.
So sexy. When I think they’re sure to come my way, they dance off in entirely the wrong direction. This is bullshit.
At least, finally, it rains.
After years of dry heat, the rain is a gift. Plumes of silt billow out from the creeks. I check Rincon one day and it’s the color of chocolate frosting. But no surf. The ocean could be an ice rink, a dinner plate, a mirror without lines. Pick whatever metaphor you like. No waves. The problem is no waves.
What the fuck do I do now.
My deadlines stack out to the horizon.
I swim along in slow motion and take ‘em on the head one after the other. They’re suggestions anyway, or that’s what I tell myself. I slide heedlessly down the calendar. What day is it? No surf, again. Which deadline is next? All of them. A jumble of words, they’re all shit.
I give it up. I pull a novel off my shelf and head to the coffee shop. A while back, Matt Warshaw posted a clip from Eve Babitz. I’d never read her before then, or even heard of her, but I’ve been hooked ever since. Her manic, Los Angeles party girl prose is the ideal antidote to flat surf and the perfect way to dodge another round of deadlines. I sit down next to the surfboards – yes, my coffee shop has surfboards in it, there’s no escaping – and jump in.
Sex and Rage. The book’s bright cover looks like it stepped out a time machine from around 1970. It has surfing in it – there’s no escaping – and the depiction of 1960’s Santa Monica feels like another country. The geography teems with wild parties and falling down beach cottages, all leaking roofs and sparse furnishing.
And so much life. There is a joyous abandon to an Eve Babitz novel that eludes description. I giggle in my corner with the surfboards.
The novel’s main character is called Jacaranda, after the trees. She hangs out at the beach and learns to surf and Babitz perfectly captures of the addictive quality of our silly dance. Eventually, she gets a job airbrushing boards, which has a startling specificity of time and place.
She also becomes a writer whose deadline avoidance is next level. I start to think maybe I should take notes. A dizzying string of boyfriends saunter across the page. I can’t keep them straight – and I suspect that’s the point.
When Daniel Duane published his story about women’s big wave surfing, I was surprised by the disparaging comments about the dumbass New York Times writer who didn’t know shit about surfing.
Okay, I wasn’t that surprised.
It is the internet, where you can’t be a writer for any amount of time without being called an idiot on the regular. It’s just how it goes. Before he wrote about big wave surfing, Duane published a book entirely devoted to surfing.
Now, not being part of the club, I really don’t know what one has to do to be considered an actual, bona fide Surf Writer. Send in your box tops, and get your Official Surf Writer Membership Card. I would have thought writing a book was good enough, but perhaps not! Strange, pagan rituals and unholy quests must surely be involved.
Or it’s dumb persistence.
I sit with the surfboards and sip my coffee. I decide that Eve Babitz is my new favorite surf writer. Pagan rituals or no, she is queen. Jacaranda finds another boyfriend. Another party goes wrong. This is the best way to spend a day with no surf that I can imagine.
My friend, The Girl with the Surfline Tattoo, bounds through the door. She drove an hour, looking for surf. It was small, she says, gesturing around her knees.
We talk about how we’re supposed to be working. Make money while it’s flat. Somehow, it never quite works that way. I need to the swing of the tides to keep me on track. Hours pass unheeded. Deadlines spin into view and just as quickly pass me by.
The twirly things out in the ocean will turn my way soon, I hope. We’ll all go surfing again someday.
Maybe I’ll make this fucking deadline.
I’m sure I can make this one. Just this one right here.