Gaz Linden, seventy and still swinging his monster blade. | Photo: Linden Surfboards

Cookie-cutter condo development forces master shaper and big-wave surfer to shutter iconic Oceanside shop after forty-three years!

Hit by the gentrification bulldozer… 

Master shaper and big-wave notable Gary Linden has whittled boards in his Oceanside, CA, shop for forty -three years.

Now he’s forced to move.

The block is being systematically bought out to build high-end condos. 

Many will be displaced.

It’s said If you don’t like gentrification in your city, leave. 

Oceanside had long been immune to major development and is one of the last places along US coastlines with relatively inexpensive housing for its citizens who work ten-hour days hanging drywall, shoveling gravel or working in shaping bays.  There are some parts that aren’t as shiny as its neighboring cities, making Oceanside a bit raw, but affordable and unmolested from corporate hands.

But the town’s city council approved a plan which includes mixed-use structures complete with six and seven-story condos and hotels perched above gyms, coffee bars, and restaurants. They’re investing in cleaning sidewalks, painting over graffiti and hiring additional security for safety to increase tourism and entice new business development.

Gumaro Escarcega, program manager at the downtown business association, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that their plan is expected to bring more jobs and tax revenue to the city.

“Downtown Oceanside is becoming a destination for new investment opportunities. It’s attracting people from San Diego to Los Angeles.”

The plan also calls for the construction of multiple big-box stores, bars, a wave pool,and attention to the arts, an Oceanside centerpiece. 

Unfortunately, the city council is thinking Bob Ross when the town is more Goya. 

The transformation is something many residents do not recognize nor welcome.

Walking around town, you can see hats and tees (courtesy of Real Surf Shop) reading “Localization not Gentrification.”

But Escarcega said, “Most of our downtown residents and neighboring communities are talking positive about downtown Oceanside growth.”

And the eternally upbeat Jason Mraz says that “Oceanside’s the new Brooklyn of San Diego.” 

Sounds cool, if not disorienting.

But let’s hear from Mr. Linden who, like Mraz, is also eternally upbeat but happens to be getting kicked out of his lifelong place of business. 

Here’s Gary’s take:

“Gentrification is a joke! I have been robbed twice in the last four years. When Oceanside was considered a rough place to be the locals protected each other and nothing ever happened. Now there are so many transient people it is impossible to control!

“This building has a huge surf history and before I moved in it was the Plastic Fantastic surfboard factory. You could walk out the back door, check the waves, and cross the tracks to the surf.

“Cleveland Street has been the best place to make surfboards that I have ever been in and I have shaped all over the World. Close to the beach so you can surf on your break time and the onshore breeze keeps the factory cool and aerated. The residents on the street were always really mellow and stoked to see what I was up to building my boards. There was a really homey vibe.

“Oceanside has for so long been kind of a secret jewel in between San Diego and LA. The waves are super-consistent and the crowds were always thin. It was the last major beach town to face the developers’ greed! There was a strong sense of community amongst the residents who faced with the constant portrayal of living in an unsafe place. We took care of each other.

“I am not really sure exactly how it will all play out as in so many ways this place can never be recreated, It was just such a special time and place. I will still be surfing and making boards in Oceanside and hoping some great opportunity presents itself!

“I hope everyone appreciates the fact that life takes its turns and you never know what the future has in store. Keep positive and expect the best. I am sure this will all turn out great!”

Eternally upbeat, for sure.

And you can always help him out by checking out his balsa boards or new agave guns; Gary even finds and cuts his own lumber!

As perfect as they are unique. 

As some of these special boards run up to five gees, it’s ironic the only people who can afford to grab one are the same who will be living in the new condos covering of the footprint of his old shop.

You are not finding these boards in New Brooklyn.

Call to Action: This September 19 march into your local surf shop, buy a hat or chain wallet and save the world!

It's Board Shop Day!

There is one last bastion standing between the VAL horde takeover, the Oklahoman Erik Logan’s World Surf League’s attempt to “change the world through the inspirational power of surfing,” goofy smiles plus positive vibes and the grumpy local.

Between Oprah and us.

Your local, independent surf shop.

Oh, I remember so fondly gingerly walking into Freeline in Santa Cruz, Wahl in Pismo Beach, Katin in Huntington, Hansen’s in Encinitas as an Oregonian and feeling the sheer terror of being rightly judged.

In the now forgotten book Cocaine + Surfing I wrote:

I panic and run into the nearby Laguna Surf and Sport without thinking. To a place even more pressure filled than the mean streets, or at least a place that used to be. The California surf shop was once a bastion of all things cool. The boards, the trunks, the clothes, boardbags, magazines, VHS surf videos, Lagwagon soundtrack, and especially the shop workers. Grown-up surfed-out Orange County preteens who would mock hapless customers from behind glass counters filled with surf stickers.

I remember stepping through the doors and into the fog of sweet surf wax as an Oregonian youth on family trips down south. I would gaze lovingly, longingly at the at the merchandise that I couldn’t afford. I would run by hand along the rails of boards I could only dream of owning. Sometimes a shop worker would ask if I needed any help in the most laconic way possible, usually while flipping through a surf magazine and not looking up to make eye contact. My heart would seize and I would mutter something and flee, trying not to gaze at the Sex Wax in the glass counter, lest anyone catch me and think I was a blushing debauchee.

We must save the core surf shop so it, in turn, can save us and Sept. 19 is our chance. It is the second annual Board Shop Day, founded by Building the Revolution founder Mike Vavek who wonders, “Is it too much to ask that we ask for a day dedicated to the shops that created an industry and a culture for many of us?”

No it ain’t.

Head into your local on Sept. 19, or before, and buy a trucker hat, chain wallet, hoodie, whatever your heart desires.

Suck it, ELo.

What he hadn’t managed to do is find the cute girl from the Swamis parking lot. Surfline Man was starting to wonder if she ever existed at all. Was she just a dream? He could not rule out this depressing possibility.

Surfline Man falls in love with girl at Swamis carpark: “Was she just a dream? He could not rule out this depressing possibility…”

Maybe she would let him ride her surfboard sometime. He is super sure that she is The One.

When we last saw Surfline Man, his girlfriend had left him, which was sad.

(Read here.)

But Surfline Man bought a new midlength and set big goals for his cutback. Sure, he misses his girlfriend, I mean, she was pretty great!

But his cutback is feeling so good lately.

Even better, Surfline Man spotted a cute girl in the Swamis parking lot. Maybe she would let him ride her surfboard sometime. When he saw her, he felt something and he’s pretty sure it wasn’t the burrito he had for breakfast. He is super sure that she is The One.

Now, if he could just meet her.

In search of new horizons — and hopefully, the cute girl at Swamis — Surfline Man recently moved to Cardiff. So tired of the whole Trestles scene, brah. Fucking circus, gotta get out of there.

Also, his ex-girlfriend’s parents owned the house, so that was a problem.

Set on his new course, Surfline Man packed up his quiver, every last one, including the yellowed, super thin shortboard that he hasn’t ridden since high school. It turns out Surfline Man is the sentimental sort, at least when it comes to surfboards.

Finally after several trips, he’s not about to admit how many, he moved out of his ex-girlfriend’s house into fresh digs of his own. Sure, he doesn’t have any furniture — his ex owned all the furniture, too — but at least there’s plenty of room for his boards.

A whole garage!

A man could go far with a whole garage.

Right now, Surfline Man should be buying a bed at West Elm or something, but he’s not. Surfline Man needs an ebike so bad. He could get to Swamis so fast! No messing around with parking, just boom! Right there. He is on the internet, furiously searching.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man with a garage must fill it, ideally with many gadgets of mixed utility.

Eventually his shiny, new ebike arrived on his doorstep. It’s a Rad Power Bike, they’re the best, you know, he said to one of his new friends in the Swamis parking lot. Kelly Slater has one just like it at Surf Ranch!

Each day, Surfline Man zips up to the Pannikin on his rad new bicycle. I mean, it has rad in the name! How could a boy resist?

By now, he had become a regular at the Encinitas landmark, whose ancient, creaking Victorian architecture spoke to something deep in his soul. He wasn’t quite sure what, but it spoke to him, totally.

It’s such a cool scene, you should come down and hang! He told all his old friends back in San Clemente. It’s the fucking best!

There he sits, sipping his Chai Latte on the lawn out front, scouring the scene for cute girls, and infinite scrolling through Instagram.

By this point he had also managed to acquire a bed and some other assorted furnishings, nothing that matched, because really, he couldn’t be bothered with such things.

Life is too short, brah, a chair is a fucking chair.

What he hadn’t managed to do is find the cute girl from the Swamis parking lot. Surfline Man was starting to wonder if she ever existed at all.

Was she just a dream? He could not rule out this depressing possibility.

There is only so much Rad Power Biking and Chai Latte drinking a man can do. Even worse, his ex threw out his sourdough starter one night in a fit of, well, something. He can’t even make bread any more. All that time practicing his kneading, it’s all gone to waste.

To make matters worse, the surf proved relentlessly, impressively flat. All the colors and graphs and pictures couldn’t hide the terrible reality. There were, in fact, no waves. And no waves coming any time soon.

He had a new midlength to ride, a cutback to improve, and a cute girl from the Swamis parking lot to find.

The universe was totally not cooperating! Like at all.

There is only so much Rad Power Biking and Chai Latte drinking a man can do. Even worse, his ex threw out his sourdough starter one night in a fit of, well, something. He can’t even make bread any more. All that time practicing his kneading, it’s all gone to waste.

Desperate, Surfline Man decided to try running on the beach. Going to the beach to run would be almost like going to the beach to surf, he reasoned.

But running made him uncomfortable. His knees started to hurt. Sweat appeared in places he preferred not to think about. Really, running was very disappointing. He did not think he could do it for even one more day.

And he did not see the cute girl from Swamis.

This was honestly, a bit of a relief, because Surfline Man did not feel at all at his best, while running. Maybe it was possible to look suave as fuck huffing and panting and sweating through a beach run. But not for him, he felt quite certain.

Then one day, he walked down to Seaside Market to buy a sandwich and maybe some other things. They sell surf wax there!

This makes him feel more things, mostly sad things, as he remembers how all the charts and all the graphs show such an enduring lack of surf.

In a desultory way, he wandered the aisles. Maybe he should cook something tonight. Fuck it, he’ll just order pizza. Pizza understands.

Then he saw her. The cute girl from Swamis! Right there in the Seaside Market!

Fresh-faced and glowing, she stood at the deli counter and waited for her kale salad. She wore some kind of athletic thing, like lululemon or something. Surfline Man can never keep these things straight.

But she looked even cuter right there, up close, in the Seaside Market, than she had in the parking lot at Swamis.

He tried his best not to stare.

Really, he did.

I mean, he’s not like some kind of creep or whatever. But Surfline Man is only a man.

So he fake-casual browsed the sushi rolls, while totally staring at the cute girl and desperately summoning up a friendly, not at all weird way to approach her.

His brain froze. Why is life so impossible, sometimes?

I think I saw you at Swamis a while back, he says. You have a sweet Ryan Lovelace board, right?

She looks surprised. And then she pauses, as though deciding whether to answer. The cute girl from the Swamis parking lot does not typically talk to random men in the grocery store.

She looks at Surfline Man, assessing.

With his floppy blonde hair and day-old scruff, he is earnest and awkward, like a golden retriever who bounds around the house, knocking shit off the table, just wagging his tail.

This vibe totally saves him, though he doesn’t know it. Whatever else he may be, Surfline Man is not creepy.

Yeah, I mean, I think that was me, probably, she says. I haven’t like been surfing much lately, though. It’s so flat.

It is! he answers eagerly. I think I’m like starting to lose my mind, in fact. I tried running but it kinda sucked. I don’t really know what to do now.

She looks at him again. He really does seem kind of sweet.

Do you ever do yoga? she asks.

I’m new to town, so I haven’t really figured out where to go yet, he says, hoping she doesn’t notice he’s totally lying. His ex used to try to get him to do yoga.

There’s a cool Bikram studio in Encinitas, she says. I usually go early in the morning. It’s just such a great way to start my day!

Maybe I’ll see you there sometime, he says, trying to be casual and totally not succeeding.

What’s your name? I’m Casey.

Trent. It’s super cool to meet you, he says.

Cool, yeah, she says, smiling.

Casey, the cute girl from the Swamis parking lot, picks up her kale salad, long since ready, and waves.

He watches her walk away, he can’t help himself. Of course, she totally knows he’s watching.

Surfline Man pays for his sushi rolls. He doesn’t even like sushi, but whatever, he met the cute girl from the Swamis parking lot! He buys a block of surf wax, just for luck, you know.

Then he saunters into the warm, golden California light, trying his best to play it cool, but totally not succeeding. He met her! He can’t even believe it.

He figures he’d better buy some yoga clothes that don’t look too bad, and Surfline Man needs to find the Bikram studio in Encinitas. For a man who tracks swells on many-colored graphs and such, this all seems like a pretty straightforward thing.

Surfline Man feels certain the internet can solve all his problems.

He just hopes yoga doesn’t make him too sweaty.

He has a cute girl to impress!

Great White Sex: Vice-ridden Shark, Good Time Gal, observed making love for first time in human history: “Four-plus tons of combined apex predator flesh is an extraordinarily delicate dance!”

"Their taut grey bodies were pushed closely together, belly to belly, revolving the entire time…"

It all came undone sooner than I imagined. Great White Shark morality, long an inspirational high tower within the animal kingdom, showed its first crack days ago when a vice-ridden fifteen-footer knocked a gentle superintendent out of his canoe, near San Francisco, and proceeded to “smoke it like a cigar.”

I was instantly worried that Great Whites would begin seeking other pleasures of the flesh. Hot toddies and cool jazz. Good Time gals in the bad part of town.

A wave of unchecked depravity.

Well,  in a just uncovered story, it appears that the inspirational high tower not only cracked years ago but also crumbled.

Marine biologist Steve Crawford had been waiting to witness Great White sharks making love in public for his whole life when he heard a tale about an old New Zealander fisherman who had seen the act with his very own eyes.

Long considered the “holy grail” of marine biology, Crawford raced to meet 82-year-old Dick Ledgerwood to hear with his very own ears and was not disappointed.

Ledgerwood had witnessed the dance in 1997 when out fishing in Otago harbor. On an early November morning he tooke his ship out and set off from Dunedin, heading east to Port Chalmers for fuel. On the way his first mate Roy hollered, “Oh Dick. There’s something white in the water back there.”

According to Crawford’s retelling, “It was two sharks wedged close together, and they were just revolving round and round, very, very slowly.”

The fishermen had never seen anything like it.

They stopped the boat and gaped at two, four-meter sharks “locked together” in just four meters of water.

Despite the onlookers, the Great Whites just carried on without shame.

“They were … locked together, and just revolving in slow circles,” Ledgerwood continued,.

“Their taut grey bodies were pushed closely together, belly to belly, revolving the entire time. They were clenched on. Rolling and rolling and rolling. We just drifted up, and they didn’t worry. I mean you wouldn’t, would you? laughs. Well, I wouldn’t.”

And it appears as if Dick Ledgerwood is something of an exhibitionist himself.

This whole business is profoundly disturbing and I fear that Great Whites may already be well past listening to Sinatra, martinis, above-the-knee skirts and already be well into 1970s swinger party debauchery or even 1980s unchecked hedonism.

More as the story develops.

Watch: “What if someone on the beach filmed the worst wave you ever surfed and it went viral on social media?”

Live from David Lee Scale's pied-à-terre.

We all, each of us, have caught a fine wave and blown it so badly as to bring shame on multiple generations of our family. I’m not writing here about when we are learning to surf as children, or vulnerable adults, and don’t really know what a fine wave is nor am I writing about a wipeout where feet are never planted. I am writing about being in position to catch the wave of the day, paddling, taking off, getting stance so egregiously wrong, arms akimbo, bottom in air, heel over rail, etc. and straight blowing it.

Looking around after missing the best section hoping nobody saw.

Haunted for days afterward.

Oh it is the worst thing to suffer privately and David Lee Scales had such a moment days ago. Now, usually other surfers either don’t see or don’t care. We all, none of us, are professionals and so don’t garner collected looks but what if, by chance, someone happened to catch the worst wave you have ever surfed and it went viral on social media?

I’m not writing here about @kookoftheday or any sort of surf-specific viral. I’m writing about viral viral. Like, Joe Rogan plays it on his podcast, Facebook posts it as its homepage, late night comedians laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.

How would you respond?

Stop surfing?

Host a media event at your local so that everyone can see how much you rip?

Join in on the fun making?

Much to ponder.

David Lee and I also discuss how crap the World Surf League is. A greatest hit of sorts.

Watch here!