Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Very Simple Concept

I have been blogging for a couple months now with the main focus being surf. When I re-read my first entry I was reminded that this journal was also supposed chronicle my artistic endeavors. Believe it or not, I have been exercising my art muscles whenever I get the chance, mostly with digital drawings on this computer. I've actually had some technical difficulties with publishing these sketches on the web, starting with my very first post (I had a really cool "Sissy Fish" illustration that was totally distorted when I put it up). But last week, at the insistence/persistence of my wife, I finally ventured back into my painting studio after several months of using it for surfboard storage. All my paints were dry and I had to scrape my palette with a razor to get it clean again. My creative juices started flowing as soon as I saw the beautiful colored flakes and peels of old paint intermingling with each other on the glass surface.

I have always been amazed at how a palette can look as good or better than the actual painting it was used to create. I like to imagine this phenomenon as the hand of God working through the subconscious of the artist in the same way the random scattering of brightly colored fall leaves on the ground creates a pure abstraction that is more beautiful than a "thought out" piece of nonrepresentational art. I guess that's why I love abstract paintings and why my own work often ends up looking the way it does.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Baby, I'm Board: The Banana

I found "The Banana" at Gorge Performance surf shop's annual swap meet in 2004. This is technically the third surfboard I've ever purchased (I bought two in the '80s), but probably the most important in my development as a surfer. This is the board that got me back into surfing again after more than 15 years as a land-lover.

I bought it from a crusty dude in a pickup truck who was asking $100. I talked him down to $80 (plus I got him to throw in an old windsurfing board bag), and also snagged a wetsuit, leash, and booties for another $50. So if we're doing the math, that's $130 for the whole kit! The board seems to be made of molded plastic or heavy duty epoxy. It must be about 3" thick and 8' tall with a pintail, molded-on fins, a leash loop, and a weird black plug that bubbles after a surf. It has a perfectly flat bottom and weighs about 10 pounds.

To look at this boat, you might think it was a prop for a really cheap beer commercial or '80s B-movie. Truthfully, I was a little doubtful that it would even float the first time I lugged it down to the beach. But as I paddled into my first wave (a two-foot left), I knew it was perfect. It really hauled ass! It was also as stable as a dock when I stood up the first time. Yes, it was as stiff as train on rusty tracks, but if you paddled into waves at an angle, it would just hold a perfect line and virtually stick in the pocket for the duration of the ride.

In the immortal words of Poison, "Ev'ry rose has its thorn," and my phallic yellow thruster has some particularly sharp ones. After deeming this the mother of all beginner boards, I have lent it to many a novice hoping that it would inspire them to pursue surfing with the same vigor as I. On my wife's first outing with it (I had to lug it down to the water for her) she bashed her head so hard that beachcombers turned their attention seaward in hopes of seeing a breeching whale. A few weeks later, the next door neighbor kid fell on a fin, slashing his ankle so bad that I had to sacrifice a sock to stop the bleeding. And finally, our friend Bernard took it on a week-long surf trip that was supposed to get him hooked on the sport. Unfortunately, during his first surf of the week in Sandy Eggo, the razor sharp skeg got hooked on his cheek, requiring more than a dozen stitches. He's still sorting out the emergency room bills.

Perhaps the Banana is "a little too much gun" to be surfed in waist-deep waters. It's tough to escape a torpedo if you can't dive down. Maybe the six-foot leash I bought on the cheap isn't allowing an escape route either... Who knows? But one thing for certain: this is a board I'll keep for life, even if I end up using it as the canvas for a future painting ala Thomas Campbell or Joel Tudor.

Stay tuned!

Music: Polyphonic Spree - "Hold Me Now"

Sunday, July 24, 2005


That's not really the name of this break, but it might as well be. With a NW wind blowing and a million seagulls shitting on the monolith in the ocean just to the Northwest of the lineup, it's pretty hard to paddle out here without feeling like you're splashing through a shit mire.

Today was really small, but luckily I brought my trusty 7'0, so catching the little peelers that came through consistently for the first hour of our session was a breeze (albeit a foul one).

Lots of small rights today. It was good practice for Mexico, I suppose. But I was having a hard time getting used to the thickness and general immobility of the longer stick again. I haven't ridden it in 6 months or so. I would pop up and as I leaned into a turn, my whole body wanted to spin right off the board. I caught a few that connected into the inside - on one in particular, the wave pitched up and the sun illuminated it from behind. For a split-second I felt like I was crouching next to a dirty aquarium, until the wave quickly closed down on me. I actually grabbed my board with my feet so it wouldn't flatten Gee, who was paddling back out. "I thought your were going to pull into the tube!" he yelled. Damn, if I only knew how.

I included this gratuitous shot of Gee for the ladies out there who think surfers are "hot" and for Shitbird, who also seems to be attracted to outdoorsy types.

Music: Pixies - "Wave of Mutilation"

Friday, July 22, 2005

Endless Bummer

In complete defiance of the surf forecast menu, which promised chop suey with cold soup on the side, Gee and I made an evening trek to the beach yesterday. The Oregon reports aren't known for their accuracy, so we took the time-tested "Gotta go to know!" attitude. Spurring us on was the fact that Gee just picked up a second hand Lost Tri-Fish and was itching deflower it.

The first spot we checked, let's call it "Safety Pins," looked halfway decent, but we figured that Short Sands would be better since it's a little more protected from the wild winds of the Northwest. A half-hour later, after hiking down to the beach, we realized that Shorty's was protected a little too well. Popping a can of Busch, we agreed: "Lake Placid." "Placido Domingo." "Flaccidly Placid." And we marched 20 minutes back up to the car.

In the parking lot we ran into our PDX brethren, Kato and Nash. "Placid wash," we reported, saving them the walk. And with that we all headed back to Spot Number One.

Long story short, those halfway decent conditions deteriorated as fast as the dropping tide. I caught a couple short lefts and noticed that if I didn't stay within spitting distance of the sandbar near the rocks I'd get sucked north (as Kato and Gee experienced first-hand). The water was as cold as I've ever felt it any time of year. Peeing in my 5/3 wetsuit did very little to keep me warm. When I got out I found myself whining for the end of "this positively horrid summer" like a teenage girl pining to be re-united with her high school love.

Afterward, we watched the sunset - one that locals swore was the best they've ever seen - and Kato did his best impersonation of the Lifesavers commercial: "Going... going... gone."

Do it again daddy!

Music: Wilderness - "End of Freedom"

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Winter in July

Saturday morning, Shorty's. It was one of those days where long rides were few and far between. The lips were moving so damn fast and closing down so dang quick that the majority of rides consisted of popping up, pumping hard, and looking down the line to see how many seconds of glide bliss you had before the walls came tumbling down. Sure, the easy way out would be to slide into the turquoise trench, push and release, crouch like a cat, then kick out the back, unscathed. But that wasn't me today. Today I was a glutton for punishment.

I guess my inspiration for this water masochism was a ride that Gee and I witnessed from the shore as we were suiting up. A guy popped up and slipped right under the lip, effortlessly, gracefully entering the inverse green universe like a ballbearing in a 7-Up bottle and shot out just as smoothly, pulling a rudimentary cutback at the end. It was his simple cutback that got me thinking that maybe you don't have to be all that skilled to get shacked. Maybe it would happen naturally if you just happened to make a right-place-right-time drop and tuck.

The waves weren't big - probably shoulder high - and the paddle out wasn't too long. But the thing Gee and I noticed immediately was the water temp. It was cold enough to give you lockjaw on your first duckdive. I caught a couple rights to start things off. I had just been given some valuable advice about how to surf backside better, and I was tripping on how such a small thing like "grabbing your rail" could make such a world of difference. It was then that the crowds started arriving...

"No problem," I said. A few Bics and a sponge or two wouldn't ruin my chances of finally getting my first tube - or would it? I found myself in perfect position on a head-high peak and stroked into it, going left again and feeling the familiar comfort of facing the wave. Just as I made the drop and let the board find it's way from the trough to a sweet spot under me, I looked at that beautiful sight that is a hill of water sliding backward over itself only to spot a pimple on its flawless face. A bodyboarder was kicking down the shoulder, into my line.

"Hold it!" I yelled, incredulously, having suffered near frostbite for the last half-hour waiting for this moment. Alas, it was too late. She didn't even look right, but skidded into my flight path, causing me to turn straight and lose the wave. Adding insult to injury, she didn't even ride down the line but went straight ahead in the whitewater. And she was mauled by the heavy froth a moment later. Sputtering after the wipeout, she said "Sorry!"

Ah well. I paddled away from the crowd and found a longboarder parked on a decent peak to the north. Sidling near him, I caught a smallish wave and zipped down the line, turning off the top, cutting back toward the foam, and turning back onto the smooth face again. I finished the ride by trying to punch through the wave. It felt pretty good. When I paddled back out, the longboarder nodded at me. "Nice left you got there," he said. "Not many long waves out here today!" I thanked him for the nod.

After that, the beatings began. The first one was on a shoulder-high left that I could see closing out soon after I stood up. I thought "Why not?" and tried to squat and hug the wave's face without actually touching it, hoping for a moment of clarity before the crush.

Boom! There was an instant where I could feel the vacuum around me, but no sooner was I aware of it than I was pitched backwards, head first. It wasn't the initial knockdown that hurt, but when my body turned over again and looped through the turbulent cylinder, I knew I would regret my bravado. I was kicking out of instinct, probably trying to paddle through the wave or down to the desperate safety of the deep, but I was nowhere near either of those goals. I could feel my flailing feet in the air as I headed over the falls again. I cradled my dome in my arms, knowing the sandy water was only waist deep on the inside. I popped up a few seconds later, spewing water, checked my that my board was still in one piece, and stroked like hell before the next wave could crush me.

On my next ride I took too high of a line as the wave closed out and I landed on the side of my board. It knocked the wind out of me.

So here I sit at 1am, anesthetized by wine, but not so numb that I don't feel a sore spot on my lower back as I type this. And I smile as I imagine what it will be like on a weekday with a little more swell and a little less people.

Music: Broken Social Scene - "Stars and Sons"

To our man in Amsterdam: This entry goes out to you. Can't wait to have you as a central character in these adventures soon!


Wednesday, July 13, 2005


As I mentioned in my last post, I just booked a trip to Cabo. Without getting too deep into the details, my wife and I will be celebrating the end of her chemotherapy and also finally taking the honeymoon we should have gone on three Augusts ago when we got married.

Ever tolerant of my passions, it was she who suggested that we go somewhere with surf. Her only requirement was that she could watch me from a nice swimming pool whilst sipping a cocktail from a coconut shell. As anyone who has planned a trip to Southern Baja knows, there is one obvious choice that fits the bill: The Cabo Surf Hotel.

It is pretty damn expensive though. We called to book it and the nightly rate came out to be around $225 a night. This isn’t exactly in our price range (by about 100 bucks a night), but considering our circumstances we decided to reserve a room. The only issue, besides dinero, was that the hotel is sold out on the night we arrive. Saturday night. So we’re now trying to find a place near Costa Azul that will take us for one evening. Since there are a few “San Diego-ans” who have visited Sissy Fish, I thought I might ask for input on what we should do.

Can anybody recommend another hotel on Costa Azul that might take us?

If so, should we just stay at this alternate hotel the whole time? In other words, is the Surf Hotel a gimmick and when we arrive, will there be ten hotels next door that cost less?

Also, should I bring my board down or just rent different boards there, depending on the conditions? I’ve always wanted to try a fish.

I know that a lot of people suggest that the only way to roll in Cabo is to rent a car and drive out every day to the various spots down there, but I’m trying to avoid this as much as possible. The idea is to be close to my wife so that while I’m not surfing I can hang with her. She even said she might be willing to take a few surf lessons down there at Old Man’s. Imagine the benefits of that: if she gets stoked, all our future vacations could be in tropical surf spots!

I was even considering taking a lesson, but I’m not sure if they have instructors that teach novice/intermediate skills. I’d hate to shell out $100 to spend the day popping up on a Bic in the sand.

Thanks for advice in advance!


Music: Neil Young – “Out on the Weekend”

Monday, July 11, 2005

Dramamine Drama Queens

It's Murphy's Law. Two weeks without surf sends you into a complete funk, bitching, twitching, and itching to get back out there. As if on cue, your complaints about needing to get wet are answered by an ominous rainstorm. But you endure it all because on Sunday you will go surfing come hell or high water.

Well, high water came.

I drove out Sunday at 11:30 with Slim; we got to Cannon Beach around 1:30 (my new old car labors over the coastal range). Our first glimpse of the swell wasn't promising, but anyone who knows me knows that I'm a blind optimist. Putting images of "The Perfect Storm" out of my head, I floored it south until we reached Arch Cape, halfway to Short Sands. The way this little beach was facing, the Southeast wind actually threatened to whip the American flags off peoples decks and out to sea. We were greeted by the following sight:

Okay, we thought, looks like there might be a peak out there that breaks both directions, even if there only seems to be a two second interval between swells. We tug on our wetsuits and charge! Sort of. This is the first time we've paddled out here, and we soon face the realization that there's an insane longshore rip that pulls north, lickety split. We can't even make it to the outside because it's suddenly pretty far south of where we find ourselves pointed. I catch a couple rights that fizzle right from the drop. On our way back to the shore I notice that Slim has picked off a reform with a little juice so I wait to catch one of my own. Unfortunately, I wait too long and I'm a hundred yards north of the inside peak. I belly one in and run back up the beach. We paddle out again, trying to find the elusive inside wave, but it becomes apparent that if you don't time the sets right - bye-bye birdie - you're Alaska bound.

So five minutes later we're sitting on our board bags heading down the 101 and I'm doing my best Dale Earnheardt Jr. impersonation with my dripping bootie on the gas pedal. There's always Short Sands!

But Shorty's is even worse. Four-foot wind chop hiding three-foot set waves. Slim threatening mutiny and abandoning ship after 20 minutes. You get the picture. Squinting to find a silver lining in on the horizon, I hang in there in true Sissy Fish style and catch a few waves (if you can call them that). The best thing I can say is that I tested out my water camera kit--a disposable camera in a second-hand fanny pack. It withstood a decent pounding in the shorebreak and I snapped a few portraits of my sea sick buddies.

On a brighter note, it stopped raining and I did book a trip to Baja today. But more about that in my next entry.

Music: Lynton Kwesi Johnson - "It Noh Funny"

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Five Ipod Essentials

A question was posed on the Pet Cobra blog recently that asked which are the top 5 radio singles of the past 15 years (since 1990).

A tough one for me, since there was a period of ten years during that block of time when I considered commercial radio to be radioactive - as if exposure to those Clear Channel airwaves would result in aural mutation or worse...

But I eventually came up a handful of songs off the top of my head. I've already reconsidered one of my choices. Here's my original list, with the revision:

1. Pixies - "Dig for Fire"
2. Lemonheads - "It's a Shame About Ray"
3. James - "Laid"
4. Pavement - "Cut Your Hair"
5. Modest Mouse - "Float Away"

I substituted Pavement for Pinback, since that was my biggest stretch in terms of "alternative radio" play. This list has its share of honorable mentions: Radiohead, Outkast, Flaming Lips, Beck and Bjork all probably should be on there.

Anybody else want to take a walk back down memory lane? It may even be more interesting to put a surf spin on this and ask the top five songs that get stuck in your head during a session. I think that may be where ruggerjay was going with his original post. In that case my list would be completely different!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Trouble With G. Love

"I'd like to buy the world a Coke, and chill with it a while."

I know I may be stepping on some sandy toes when I diss G.Love, his being chummy with the Malloy brothers (who directed the commercial), Jack Johnson and every other surfer who has picked up a guitar, but that new commercial sucks.

For an artist to blatantly pimp a product on as vast a scale as Coke's and to do it in such an uncreative and, frankly, humiliating way is inexcusable. G. Love has become a parody of himself, marble-mouthing his way through the white boy rhymes that lead to the chorus mentioned above. And what the hell does it mean, anyway? He wants to chill with the world a while? Or does he want to chill with the Coke he bought for the world a while? Shit, I don't know. All I know is that the commercial reminds me of the horrible one with Garth Brooks sitting on his front porch rhapsodizing about how great Dr. Pepper is (anybody remember the weird old man playing the washboard in that one?): "Be original, an individual, like Dr. Pepper."

I can just hear the ad execs sitting around a conference table saying: "Remember that song G. Love and the Saucy-sauce did a while back: I love them chilled beverages, or something? It would be perfect for selling our new Coke Zero!"

I remember that song - and I remember it was about BOOZE. I even liked G.Love back then, before he became the soundtrack to every frat/sorority party on the planet.

People may say that it is an artist's right to make money when he can, especially when illegal downloading is dipping substantially into their revenue stream. They may even say that G.Love is laughing all the way to the bank by aiming a sling at the Goliath Coca-Cola corporation. If that's the case, he could have at least looked cool doing it...

Case in point: I have some friends in a band that is less successful than G.Love who sold one of their singles to the Polaroid corporation to promote those small instant cameras that were the rage a few years ago. The band is Metric and the song was "Grow Up and Blow Away." It was a cool track and a hip video, but I think the whole experience left a bad taste in their mouths. A year later the lead singer Emily told me that she turned down placement of one of their songs in a Power Puff Girls episode. I said, "That's cool," but she could tell by my hesitation that I was considering all the other great bands that have endorsed the cartoon and how it may have helped gain them exposure. "Fuck you!" she replied. But I totally respected her because of how cautious she was with the band's integrity. It is a very precious thing.

Music: Metric - "Combat Baby"

P.S. But I totally approve of Metric appearing on the DaKine website since it is surf-related and because I use their products...

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Feet Feats

A quick question about foot placement for more experienced surfers than me:

How do you get your feet in the right place when you pop up?

I seem to always jump up and find myself riding toward the middle of my board. I even bought a tail pad so that I'd be able to feel when my back foot is in the right place. I can get my foot back on the tail if I consciously shuffle back after the drop, but shouldn't it already be there? I literally can see my footprints in my wax and by back foot mark is right in front of the traction pad and to the left of the stringer. This makes sense, since I always seem to be going left on smallish waves, but I want my back foot to be in a more active spot from the giddyup. When I'm trimming, it seems to be no big deal, but I have noticed that turning really is a super bitch from the center of my stick. Any tips?

I'm doing the traditional "American small town 4th of July" this weekend in Ashland, so I won't be able to put your suggestions into action until next week. Oh the woes of being landlocked again...

Music: The Wedding Present - "Kennedy"