Warshaw on the “decades-long political scramble over who gets to use the phrase ‘Surf City’ as a regional marketing tool”

And how it started with a high-torque V8 metalflake kustom pop song by California idealists Jan Berry and Dean Torrence… 

The song “Surf City” does not hold up to close textual reading — it is in fact ridiculous, what with strapping a board to your back and hitching a ride in your wetsuit etc.

But in terms of high-torque V8 metalflake kustom Gold Star Studio pop-craft, “Surf City” is as good as it gets.

The decades-long “Surf City” political scramble over who gets to use the phrase as a regional marketing tool, on the other hand, is just ridiculous and nothing but ridiculous.

Let’s begin with the song.

Jan and Dean (Jan Berry and Dean Torrence) recorded “Surf City” in LA in March of 1963. Brian Wilson first-drafted the words and melody, Dean tweaked the lyrics, Jan hired the Wrecking Crew for the track (that’s Glen Campbell on guitar) and in general arranged and produced the shit out of it.

In July, it went to #1. Jan Berry was very much on the spectrum of what the DSM-5 categorizes as “high-functioning asshole” (after dumping his pregnant girlfriend, Berry’s own parents adopted the baby which meant Berry’s son was also his stepbrother), but in ’63 he was an A-plus producer, further along than Brian Wilson and tuffer than Phil Spector, and “Surf City” was the first in a string of Berry-produced hits in which B-grade teen drama walks in one end of the studio and gets shot out the other as a sub-three-minute sonic masterpiece. 

Here’s how you know Jan Berry was a monster producer. His songs are impossible to cover. You can find a half-dozen “Surf City” attempts by other bands, and none are above average — even the Ramones can’t get it off the ground. Only Jan Berry could.

The Surf City branding bunfight started 20-or-so years after the song hit.

It caught me by surprise.

I thought everybody knew, like I did, that Hungtington Beach was Surf City. Except Huntington is not of course actually mentioned in the song, and in this Jan and Dean made-for-TV video (what TV show? anybody?) Surf City is Malibu, not HB.

Where does that leave us?

“Who cares” is a good answer, or something along the lines of “Surf City is a state of mind.”

But no, Huntington’s gonna be Huntington and in 2004 it applied for a “Surf City USA” trademark, just to kneecap Santa Cruz businesses and municipal officials from using the phrase for their town. Lawyers were called. Suits and countersuits were filed.

You knew all along who was going to win. Still, credit the Santa Cruz major who at one point not only issued a city-vs-city “surf-off” challenge to HB, but went on local TV to sing his version of “Surf City,” which in part went:

You think your pier compares to Steamers?
(Surf City is Santa Cruz)

Just give it up and go drive your Beemers.
(Surf City is Santa Cruz)

No BMWs are seen during any of the last several Huntington Pier riots, but never mind, score that point for Santa Cruz.

Huntington, as expected, won the legal fight and kicked all the poor people out of town. 

Meanwhile, if you’ve been following the 2021 World Surf Games in El Salvador this week, you know that the entire coastal region surrounding the contest site is being referred to as “Surf City,” and people that is down to the Salvadorian President himself hopping on the surf-marketing bandwagon. 

In other words, the whole thing has elevated from mayors to heads of state.

Progress?

Two takeaways:

1) Asshole or not, Jan Berry was a pop-music wizard and Jan and Dean deserve a sandy corner in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

2) Hats off to a little township on Topsail Island, North Carolina, that is actually officially named — not branded — Surf City, and has been since 1949. The waves are not great in Surf City, but give me a choice and I’ll take an hour at their Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center over an hour at Northside HB, thank you very much.

(You like this? Matt Warshaw delivers a surf history essay every Sunday, PST. All of ’em a pleasure to read. Maybe time to subscribe to Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing, yeah? Three bucks a month.)


Shock: France and Japan emerge as new surfing superpowers at Olympic qualifier in El Salvador: once mighty Americans crushed by minnows Italy, Great Britain and Canada to finish sixteenth!

A changing of the guard in Central America.

French and Japanese surfers have dominated the final day of competition at the ISA World Surfing Games, the last stop on the potholed road to Tokyo 2021.

In the individual men’s event, France’s Joan Duru and Jeremy Flores finished first and third, with Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi and Hiroto Ohhara, second and fourth.

Germany’s Leon Glatzer, who was born in Maui and grew up in Costa Rica, finished fifth.

Owen Wright was Australia’s best performing surfer, finishing eleventh, behind a raft of Peruvians, a Chilean, a Balinese shredder and a kid from Portugal.

The women were a little different, Australian Sally Fitzgibbons dominating throughout the event, although, per the fashion of the event, Portuguese and Peruvians filled out spots second, third and fourth.

Although I saw very little of the contest, too many heats, too many sudden withdrawals by drawcards, Gabriel Medina, Italo Ferreira, Julian Wilson and so on to provoke any sort of interest, the contest was a harbinger of a rapidly shifting surfing world, the decline of the USA a reflection of a decaying empire, ruined by decades of war, internal strife and barbarians at the gate; a country running on fumes, so to speak.

Anyway, no biggie, below are the Olympians who will be performing in Tokyo, if it runs.

If you’re wondering why Duru ain’t on the list, it’s ’cause France already has its two men (Flores and Bourez) who’d qualified through the WCT.

Each team gets two men, two women.

Men
Gabriel Medina (BRA)
Italo Ferreira (BRA)
Owen Wright (AUS)
Julian Wilson (AUS)
Kolohe Andino (USA)
John John Florence (USA)
Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Michel Bourez (FRA)
Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
Hiroto Ohhara (JPN)
Lucca Mesinas (PER)
Miguel Tudela (PER)
Jordy Smith (RSA)
Manuel Selman (CHI)
Leon Glatzer (GER)
Rio Waida (INA)
Leandro Usuna (ARG)
Frederico Morais (POR)
Ramzi Boukhiam (MAR)
Billy Stairmand (NZL)

Women
Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS)
Stephanie Gilmore (AUS)
Carissa Moore (USA)
Caroline Marks (USA)
Tatiana Weston-Webb (BRA)
Silvana Lima (BRA)
Mahina Maeda (JPN)
Amuro Tsuzuki (JPN)
Teresa Bonvalot (POR)
Yolanda Sequeira (POR)
Johanne Defay (FRA)
Pauline Ado (FRA)
Daniella Rosas (PER)
Sofia Mulanovich (PER)
Brisa Hennessy (CRC)
Leilani McGonagle (CRC)
Dominic Barona (ECU)
Anat Lelior (ISR)
Bianca Buitendag (RSA)
Ella Williams (NZL)


Kick off your shoes.

Is this Australia’s hippest beach house? Surfer-artist-minstrel Ozzie Wright lists epic off-the-grid coastal spread on AirBnb, “An intentional space to disconnect from the modern world and reconnect to your creativity!”

“A colourful beach shack perched on top of a hill, looking out to uninterrupted ocean views… A mystical meeting of beach and bush."

The Australian surfer Ozzie Wright, and musician wife Mylee, have listed for rent the holiday spread they bought for $1.5 million in 2019, a dreamy beach shack on a quarter-acre of pristine national park dirt in Broadwater, seven hours north of Sydney, one hour south of Byron.

The sale came with a DA to bulldozer the old joint (“Build your dream beach house”) but Oz and Mylee have dressed it up in Classic Ozzie style, art on the walls, painted curtain dividers ‘tween bedrooms, couches covered in wild upholstery, a guitar in a corner. 

You wouldn’t have heard of Broadwater; it’s one of those towns you burn through along the Pacific Highway on the way from Sydney to Byron. Ain’t much there, you got the Richmond river, there’s a 150-year-old sugar mil that’s closed to the public, a pretty cafe operating out of an old Catholic church, ’bout it.

The national park is the town’s jewel, ten-thousand acres of coastal heath and wetlands and eight clicks of mostly empty beach. 

And, here you’ll find Oz and Mylee’s Happy Sun House, which is, as per the listing,  “a colourful beach shack perched on top of a hill, looking out to uninterrupted ocean views… A mystical meeting of beach and bush. A cosy and rustic shack not without things we love like, luxury linen sheets and a fully equipped kitchen… A truly blissful beach shack experience. A place where the sun hits the walls in a most beautiful way. An intentional space to disconnect from the modern world and reconnect to your creativity, gently allowing nature to ground down a busy mind.”

Five hundred bucks a night, if you want in, with a fifteen percent discount if you book for a week. A cleaning cost and service fee on top of that. Think four gees or thereabouts for a week in a little slice of Australian heaven.

Book, examine here. 


"I don't care if you were paddling first! The surfer nearest the peak has the right of way!"
"I don't care if you were paddling first! The surfer nearest the peak has the right of way!"

Listen: Is surf localism simply a more historically rooted form of modern Karenism?

A real bummer, if true.

Trouble rocked me last night to the very core. A thought, a specter, that materialized whilst talking to David Lee Scales over the internet.

We were recording our weekly chat, for your pleasure. Usually we do it in person, of course, but David Lee had become stuck  in Houston the day before and I had a important things to do aboard a vintage Chris Craft and so we settled for an evening Zoom.

He imagined, not incorrectly, that it would be cocktail hour and had mixed himself a Boulevardier. I instinctively knew that I needed to be sharp, some epiphany to be had, so poured myself a Topo Chico with a twist of grapefruit.

Little did I know how painful it would be.

Like a sharply cut bob.

Because there we were conversing moving from topic to topic, VAL this, core that, until rounding the bend to Malibu Karen and her less than ideal week.

“Wait,” I says.

“Is surf localism simply a more historically rooted form of modern Karenism?”

Uh oh.

It is, isn’t it.

The craving of order and the compunction to confront offenders of order and bring them to heel by any means necessary.

How does that make you feel?

Would you like to speak to BeachGrit‘s manager Derek Rielly?

Listen here.


Ultra-surfer Kai Lenny reveals hidden sadistic relationship between big wave mastery and his new love of road biking: “It’s learning to love the hurt. I think there’s a translation there.”

Scary.

Kai Lenny is a generational athlete. A specimen so rare that it is difficult for a mere mortal to take in and appreciate his vast talents in real time. We will need the history books to marvel, appropriately, at his feats. His big wave mastery, windsurfing, foil boarding even his dark passions like SUPping and befriending Mark Zuckerberg.

Well, he has, apparently, mastered another dark passion. Road cycling.

I see the road cyclists riding on the Pacific Coast Highway, often, dressed in brightly colored lycra rompers often marked with IPA beer brewers, taking up a full lane of traffic because it is somehow their right and, I’ll be honest, I fantasize about hitting them.

Like this.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CO-bCJZD7Cy/

Nothing overly violent, just a small tap.

I would not fantasize about hitting Kai Lenny, though, and he has recently opened up about his new passion in a wide-ranging interview that appears on Velo News. (Velo, of course, Italian for IPA).

He told the author:

“What’s cool about riding here is that, in surfing when you’re put into a position on big waves, you’re committed to the situation you’re in, there’s no time out. I think it’s good mental practice when you’re climbing up the mountain here, you’re not going to stop… It’s learning to love the hurt. I think there’s a translation there — it’s key to have endurance when you’re surfing all day.”

Sadistic. Kai Lenny harbors sadistic thoughts, no?

Later, in the same article I read:

“I wanted to ride on every single island and foil between them. It was logistically kind of a nightmare and expensive. The reality is, I’ve really only ridden on Maui. I’ve ridden a little in other places but not with an intention. I have friends on other islands who have road bikes, so I thought it would be cool to link with them and connect the communities in between. It’s a long way, close to five hundred miles. The total between ocean legs and miles on the bike is 460 miles total, so we had nicknamed it the Hawaii 500. As soon as you landed on the beach, you’d have to get on the bike. No relaxing. Either always pedaling or always pumping. Pedal to pump. Pray for the downhills or a big swell. The joke was we’d all need wheelchairs on the way home.”

I’ver seriously never even imagined anything so horrifying.

Learn more here, if you dare.