Thursday, September 28, 2006

Zen Surf

The fog was thick and bright
The air was warm and still
Large birds flew like shadows
In and out of the mist.

The water was clear and smooth
The cove was silent and close
A figure (like a ghost) appeared beyond a swell
Then dissolved behind a cloud.

You could smell your own breath
You could push water and watch
As your tiny east swell travelled outward toward the void.

You could see crabs crawling on the ocean floor
You could chase fish swimming in a line
As you rode the small waves above.

The swell came to you
(You couldn't chase them)
The ocean carried you
(You couldn't navigate to change its mind).

It was peaceful.
It was scary.
It was holy.

Jose Gonzales - Heartbeats

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Knives Don't Have Your Back

Emily's new album comes out in the US today. I highly suggest that you purchase it (even if you've already grabbed a few tracks from the internet).

Knives Don't Have Your Back is certainly more plaintive and intimate than her work with Metric. It's mostly just her and a piano, which will be a disappointment to her ranks of pubescent fans who clamor to the stage for panty-shots during her gigs with the group. That's not to say the songs aren't sexy. They are, but in a whispered confessional way that says "I trust you," not "I thrust you."

Even the snobbists at Pitchfork squeezed out a decent rating for the release (7.3), after panning what turned out to be last year's indie rock staple Live It Out . So I'm not being biased here when I say the album is fucking great. A perfect soundtrack to accompany your transition from summer sun to gray gloom.

If my review hasn't convinced you, check out this video for Doctor Blind.

Emily Haines - Our Hell

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Dong Patrol

Dawn patrol on Saturday morning was almost perfect. The bouys were reading 6 feet at 10 seconds with a light offshore breeze. The sun was shining and the air was warm. Was it too early for an Indian summer? After checking a few spots that seemed to progressively get smaller as we drove south, we finally decided on Indian beach, the fickle break that provided me with my last classic session. The only thing that marred a legendary go-out was the fact that the waves weren't nearly as perfect as the other conditions. Oh yeah, and that this sad rendition of a penis (drawn with wax) ended up on our car. But even that didn't rain on our parade.

The Dictators - Warm California Sun

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Are We Ready for the Next Wave?

As if the rising popularity of surfing hasn't brought enough company into the line-up over the last five years (myself being one) Hollywood is doing it's part to publicize the sport with several films in the works. So far, the list includes:

In Search of Captain Zero - Sean Penn/Brad Pitt
Surf's Up - Animated Penguin Surf Movie
Big Wave - Ben Stiller
John Fron Cincinatti - Deadwood-meets-Kem Nunn
Bored! - Ben Marcus Tidal Bore Film/TV Show?

The Birthday Party - Nick the Stripper

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Required Reading

Woke up yesterday to a steady downpour and a chill in the air. Outside my window, kids lugged their backpacks to the local high school, another year having just begun. It's funny how my own reaction to the climate change and leaves scattered on my lawn, the dark mornings and football on TV, is one of slight nervousness, as if I'm also starting a new scholastic year. Or maybe the stomach butterflies swarm in anticpation of the big, cold, fall swell that comes with offshore storms.

This particular morning, I looked over the books I've been reading lately and noticed a recurring theme: surf. How cool would it be if there was a class on surf literature taught by Matt Warshaw or Dave Parmenter? Right now I'm working my way through "The Dogs of Winter," by Kem Nunn. His story about a mysto wave near the Oregon border that's only accessible through an Indian Reservation is a perfect reading for this time and place.

I also need to find out who borrowed my favorite surf novel, "In Search of Captain Zero." Rumor has it Sean Penn was going to play the author, Alan Weisbecker, but had a falling out with the writer when he refused to read the book.

Mazzy Star - On the Low

Monday, September 11, 2006

Magic Weekend

Surfing slated for both days of the weekend.
Clearance to camp Saturday night.
When we got to the beach, we found this rock
with a drawing of the previous evening's full moon.
The artist must have used various pieces of dirt for color (like pastel)
and scratched the stone to make white.

Joined by my original surf chum, Ebb,
who I hadn't surfed with in almost 20 years,
our gang charged shoulder to head high waves
until the rising tide, wind chop, and sore shoulders
told us to end the morning session and grab icy beers
and food at a Cannon Beach bar with Pabst for a buck.

The sun was shining and we drank it in on the patio.
It was supposed to rain, but it was unseasonably hot.
After lunch we did a leisurely check of the surrounding breaks
until we settled on Indian Head where peaks were groomed by gentle offshores.

The waves were even bigger now.
I edged my way to the middle of the break,
where I had seen a perfect left.
I watched Ebb immediately paddle into an overhead right
and bottom turn easily before he disappeared.

A few minutes later, I had my chance.

A large smooth wedge approached
and I paddled hard and thrust into it.
The board flew.
It was a slingshot.
I watched sections fold in front of me
and I passed them by,
finding the next green wall.

Returning to my line-up
(a white, branchless pine on shore)
I did it again and again.
"Session of the season!"
I yelled as the sun began to set.
And September had only just begun.

The next morning was more of the same.
Three different spots in three days.
Not a bad welcome to Oregon surfing again
for my oldest surf friend.

Love and Rockets "No New Tale to Tell"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Skate, Don't Hate

This is my new skateboard.

I bought it in Santa Cruz.

Is 33 too old to start skating again?

That's like asking if 30 is too old to pick up surfing.

I say no.

Destroyer - Streethawk I

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Four Mile

Our first surf in Santa Cruz was at Pleasure Point, where we dragged some borrowed longboards to the cliffs, descended the wooden stairs (with dents worn into them from generations of bare feet heading down to the water), and made our way through the kelp to the lineup. There were at least forty other log riders sitting on the second peak, which made catching any of the decent waist-high waves a challenge. But OS, Gee, and I were happy to at least get wet and grab a couple waves that swung wide around the crowded takeoff spot or broke a little closer in than the locals were ready for. After all, our friend who lived on the point (who lent us his yellowed boards) told us that there hadn't been any swell for two weeks and that this accounted for the hungry crowd.

We escaped the local hordes by driving only four miles outside of town. I spent my last two nights at a bohemian compound in the hills above Bonny Dune, so proximity to the break (two miles north of it) was another reason we chose this spot. To tackle the new break, we rented two boards from Freeline, a six-foot epoxy performance board and a six-foot quad. Not travelling with your own boards always offers an opportunity to test different equipment.

The dirt parking area along Hwy 101 told us something. There was one old truck with surf racks on it parked on the north side of the turnout. Another car bottomed out in the rocky ruts as it edged back to the roadway. Spaced at car-length intervals in the lot were piles of broken glass, sparkling like uncut diamonds on the earth. Were these broken windows simply left over from petty thefts of car stereos, or was this an indication that the locals north of town didn't appreciate rental cars with surf racks. To be safe we pulled ours off the roof and stashed them in the trunk.

The walk down the trail immediately reminded me of the first surf novel I read, almost two years ago. Daniel Duane's "Caught Inside" described a very similar hike to this one, through a Steinbeck-like setting: There were the railroad tracks, the farms with their patchwork crops blowing in the afternoon breeze, the worn path through the field that dipped toward a marshy estuary. To the north was a deteriorating rocky cliff that protected the little bay containing the break. Along the beach were scores of seagulls, going and coming, but always blanketing the sand between the brackish water and the sea.

And there were only two surfers out.

The setup had two right-breaking peaks: one was smaller, steeper, closer to the inside, the other was bigger, mushier and originated against the outside edge of the rock. Though there were whitecaps beyond the wind shadow of the wall, inside the surface of the water was relatively calm. The swell was only waist to shoulder high, but you could see how this place would go off on a fat fall swell.

Gee and I paddled out from the beach, through the kelp, where we took our place respectfully inside the other two surfers. When they would grab the first wave of a set, we would grab the second or third. I was on the blue potato chip board and I bogged down on my first few backhand drops. Adding to the challenge of making waves was the kelp, which would grab your board as you paddled, then during your ride as you planed into the trough, where it would send you flying headfirst like a skateboarder hitting a rock on the pavement.

The setting was as beautiful as the scenes we had grown accustomed to in Oregon. Wildlife was everywhere. During the next two days I surfed Four Mile, I saw otters cracking shells on their stomachs, baby seals, pelicans, sea lions, and a dorsal fin that had me in a panic, until a friendly local assured me that it was a dolphin. He explained that sharks couldn't get in through the summer kelp beds. From that point on, I stopped cursing the sea vegetation.

When I returned home from the "red triangle," where I had been revisiting the Discovery Channel's "Shark Week" during my time in the water, I found out that Oregon had its second shark attack. Would that be considered irony or coincidence?

The Cure "Killing an Arab"

(We bought the Cure's greatest hits for our rental car and it served as the soundtrack to the weekend.)