The horror. The horror.
I swore on my ex-mother-in-law’s Avenal double-wide that I would never ever ever return to the California’s central valley but yesterday found me there underneath a relentless sun, standing in Lemoore’s dry dirt thinking, “What on earth has Kelly Slater wrought?” It would be impossible for even the most poetically apocalyptic mind to dream up a more torturous scene. A tableau filled with more… hopelessness.
John of Patmos, Dante Alighieri, Stephan King all prostrate themselves at the eleven-time World Champion’s surgically repaired foot.
And I wish I could tell you that I was there for some great joke, a follow-up to last year’s billboard but alas. We kicked around a few ideas. A giant image of smiling John John with the words “Do you miss me yet?” underneath. This one of the World Surf League’s President of Content, Media, Studios and 1/2 lbs. Big Mouth Burgers Erik “ELo’ Logan and me with some glib line but nothing stuck and our window closed.
No, I was in Lemoore for something far more prosaic though beautiful, a project you will enjoy soon, but did have the occasion to speak with many professional surfers. To peer into their eyes and sense the deep ache in their souls.
Did you know each professional surfer gets two waves a day leading up to the event? Not two hours but two waves? One left. One right. Their two waves are slotted throughout the day. They get their practice schedule, head for the pool, surf down, surf back and are finished until the next day.
Roughly one minute of surfing coupled with one four minute wait.
Imagine you a professional surfer and your two wave slot is 8:30 in the morning. You wake up, eat breakfast, spend your five minutes in the tank then stare down the barrel of twenty-three hours and fifty-five minutes in Lemoore.
I spoke with Ryan Callinan from Australia’s Newcastle. He fell on his first turn, busting his fin out but he didn’t know until the next wave when he slid around strangely and that was it. No more. See you again in twenty-three hours and fifty-five minutes. Then again in twenty-three hours and fifty-five minutes. Then again in twenty-three hours and fifty-five minutes.
I asked how he planned on spending his time. He said he was thinking about driving to Yosemite. I told him it was a 3.5 hour drive. San Francisco? A 3.5 hour drive. Los Angeles? A 3.5 hour drive. The nearest beach? A lousy one and a 3.5 hour drive.
Kelly Slater conjured a place that traps fit, tan, healthy, physically gifted specimens 3.5 hours from anything resembling life breathing cow stink and second-hand Marlborough Red and jet exhaust from Lemoore’s naval air base. He feeds them their choice of hot dog, hamburger, hard-shell taco, encourages them to play rigged Indian casino slot machines, the only form of entertainment within the 3.5 hour bubble, and teases their minds with two waves. One right. One left.
David Lynch’s most experimental bio horror is a romantic comedy in comparison. Dutch filmmaker Tom Six’s work is no more disturbing than an episode of Friends when juxtaposed with Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch.
I spoke with current world number 6 Italo Ferreira and asked how he was spending his time. He smiled and said, “I go to my room, put on music and dance.”
Italo for the win, I suppose.