Monday, April 30, 2007

Pray for Surf 2

Yesterday we gambled at a spot you have to hike to. We got there at 8am and it looked pretty rough. Overhead-plus sets that wanted to close out in big, scary lines down the beach. So we waited for the tide to change and walked out along the rocks to see if we could jump off from there, to avoid a very difficult paddle.

When we got really far out on the boulders, we noticed a few specks emerging from the treeline back on the beach. They were carrying boards. First there were two, then four, then six, then ten. The first two surfers made their way out to where we were and before they lowered themselves into the sea, they knelt, bowed their heads and crossed themselves. After that, they very gingerly entered the water between massive sets. I noticed that one of the guys ground to a screaching halt as his board hung up on a barnacle-covered monolith. But he made it outside (barely) before the next set came smashing in.

Once outside, we realized that these dudes knew what they were doing. Immediately, one caught a right that was easily head-high and twice as thick, and pumped in big s-turns to outrun the whitewater. Backside.

OS, Marko and I walked back to the gear we'd stashed on the beach, discussing whether or not we would be in over our heads here. By this time, there were eleven people in the line-up, which was officially a crowd (especially in this neck of the woods). We sat on a big log and watched, toying with the idea of paddling out in the rip. We had come this far, and the other guys were making the most of it, so why couldn't we? Our buddy Nash showed up with his shiny new board and jogged to catch up with a girl who we had seen on her way out to the rocky point.

We suited up. It was Marko's birthday and he was going to get some waves. When we were just about ready to go out, two surfers came out of the water and sat down next to us on the log. They told us they were part of the Christian Surfing Association and that their group had gotten access to a camp that overlooked this magical place for the weekend. This spot is notoriously fickle. As we watched members of their group drop into big rights that were becoming more and more groomed by a higher tide and wind that had switched to offshore, I asked how they knew this break would be working when they made the reservation to stay there (they only do it once a year).

"We pray!" he said, and laughed.

We took his advice and paddled out in a strong rip and made it to the line-up in no time. I was slightly undergunned on my 5'8 quad (c'mon Moonlight, I need my 5'11!) as I noticed several step-up pintails in the group. I got bounced off my first three waves, but made my fourth and fifth, the one that I took back to the shore. And Marko got the wave of the day, the perfect right-hand gift for a guy whose Oregon surf stoke had been wilting of late.

Jens Lekman - I Saw Her in the Anti-War Demonstration

Friday, April 27, 2007

Ultimate Surf Coach

I just bought "Occumentary," a flick about one of my first surf heroes, Mark Occhilupo. The reason why I liked Occy so much was because of all the surfers on tour during the '80s, he seemed to have the most personality and pure stoke for the sport. He had great style and was always giggling in that high-pitched voice of his. Not to mention that he's goofy foot, surfing with the most backside power I'd ever seen (J-Bay).

I pretty much suck when I have to go right, a fact that got me thinking: Wouldn't it be cool if you could pick any surfer in history to mentor you? Thinking of it as a "desert island coach," who would be the best surfer to impart wisdom, pointers, and probably more importantly: Who would be the most fun to have as a teacher?

Taj Burrows was a close second (those Aussies often seem to avoid "sea jock" syndrome), as was Rob Machado (a goofy who can ride anything).

Who would you pick?

Again, if you haven't seen it, check this link for the opening sequence from Occumentary. Notice the slash where Occy's front foot is completely off the board...

Peter Bjorn & John - Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Surf 'Til Dark

Spring conditions finally arrived Oregon last week. We had one of those days where you leave work at 3pm, hit the beach by 4:30, check a few spots, and still get in a three-hour session. The waves were waist-to-shoulder high and fun. Very glassy. Smiles all around the line-up.

I've been out of town at my grandfather's memorial service, which put me within striking distance of several good Californian breaks. As I sped up the 101 Saturday morning, I saw nice beachies working all through Ventura. Rincon looked really inviting (and not too crowded). But I didn't surf.

On Sunday morning we held a service on the beach at Montana de Oro. Again, I spotted a surfer here and there on the drive down to sea level. It was misty and the wind was offshore. Three Marines in full formal black and blue array walked out through the mist on the sand and delivered a folded flag to my Mom. They played taps. It was a perfect farewell.

It rained a lot down in SoCal, and it was sunny in PDX. I'm looking forward to scoring more springtime magic in coming days and I'll be sure to update Sissyfish more now that I'm back home!

Peggy Lee - Is That All There Is?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Surf in Art: Albert Reyes

My friend Tay always buys me cool art for birthdays and holidays. This is a piece she gave me a few years ago by the LA artist Albert Reyes. What's really great is that it's screened on the inside of a vintage book cover. Reyes is a great draftsman, doing detailed drawings of vatos, gangstas, hos, bros, tags, gats - you know, flavors East LA and beyond. His book, Don't Give Up (which I still haven't given back up to Gee), has so many killer snapshots and collages in it - one is a black and white snapshot of a guy surfing. Which made me wonder if Reyes actually surfs too...

Mr. Nogatco - Alpha Omega

Monday, April 16, 2007

Pray for Surf

This is one of my favorite surf images/ads, but I can't remember where I got it. What an amazing single fin Brewer. And is that the famous model Iman (who married Bowie)? Beautiful. Anyway, I'm looking at a very small window for surf this week - specifically Thursday afternoon between 4-7 pm. I hoping for some devine intervention to deliver ridable waves between storms.

Hope you're all getting some...

Final Fantasy - Please Please Please

Thursday, April 12, 2007


"I'm gonna shove that easel up your ass!"

Yesterday I was sitting in some mushy surf, watching a certain break go off like I'd never seen it before. It was absolutely beautiful in its angularity, size, color, consistency and power. It's widely known by surfers here that there's a strict underground policy forbidding any photography of the wave. Tales of bloody deer heads on car hoods and cameras being ripped from the hands of dumbfounded beachcombers all reinforce the legend of this, arguably the most coveted break on the West Coast.

Bobbing in the less-than-stellar conditions that I had relegated myself to yesterday (a spot a half-mile closer to the beach), I couldn't help but imagine what would happen if I were to amble out along the rocks with my portable easel on my back, a flimsy canvas under my arm, and a beret perched askew on my head for good measure.

I looked left at a dirt parking lot filled with Ford F150s and wondered if I'd even make it past that grizzly gauntlet, where locals have been known to huck rocks at kooks and pros alike, especially those threatening to shed light upon the perfection of the only thing that makes life in that seaside town livable. At least I'd have my easel box protecting my back and a square of stretched fabric to deflect incoming sticks and stones.

Then I thought about writing a short story about it. I smiled as a dark speck dropped into the glassy left impossibly late, drew out a precise bottom turn that brought him ten yards behind the roaring whitewater, and then swiched his weight on the rail, whipping himself back into the trough, where he was immediately swallowed like Jonas, ejected seconds later only to spray a triple overhead rooster tail that sent him back down the wave, where he repeated the process.

And I just might sit down and write that story. When I get a little time.

Alex Smoke - Don't See the Point

This post is dedicated to my grandfather, David Cosley, the man who passed an intense love of adventure, family, the Sea of Cortez, and off-color bar jokes to me. Godspeed.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Share the Stoke

I spent the last couple days nursing a stoke hangover. On Friday, I was part of a challenge to follow the flow of water from Mt. Hood to the Pacific Ocean, doing outdoor sports along the way. The whole thing, taking place over the course of one day, was documented for the company I work for, Nau. Initially, I thought I'd only be part of the crew, providing technical assistance and helping with water shots, but Thursday night I was informed that I'd be one of the three "stars" of the movie, along with Alex from Nau's office and Steph from the store.

The caveat: The first leg involved skinning up Mt. Hood and skiing down the mountain at sunrise. I'd never so much as had ski boots on my feet before. Not to give too much away, the first few hours were really a comedy of errors, with me hosting multiple "yard sales" in the snow, all my gear scattered around me. My two compatriots were incredibly patient with my incompetence. They were accomplished skiers, and they shared their knowledge with broad smiles on their faces.

The second leg was a paddle down the Sandy river. This was a relief for all of us, since the rapids were pretty mellow and the sun was shining. I'd negotiated whitewater in rafts before, so I was a little closer to my "element." By the time we finished the float, I was pretty funky, so I dove into the icy runoff. Clean and cool, I was wide awake and ready for the drive to the coast.

We arrived at Shorties at around 5:30. It was time for me to return the favor to Alex and Steph, who had never surfed before. Looking at the ocean, I realized that the final payoff of the film - me surfing on some quality springtime waves - was going to be a bit tough. The conditions resembled the big washing machine waters of winter. But the inside stuff looked pretty mellow, so I gave some dry land lessons on how to paddle, pop up, and avoid being knocked out by a longboard. We got in and I pushed Steph into some whitewater. Amazingly, she popped up pretty confidently and stood for a couple seconds, despite her initial fear of the choppy, short interval reforms. I looked over, and Alex was instinctively stroking with both arms into an unbroken reform. He stood up a couple times, once long enough to claim his wave by throwing up both hands in victory.

I was pretty hellbent on catching one of the outside bombs to end the film, so when Steph and Alex headed in, I headed for the outside. It was such a battle to make it, but I finally got out far enough to sit on my board and gather my thoughts. What a day it had been. I was tired, dizzy, hungry, and all alone in the heaving swells. I thought about the philosophical, religious, and environmental discussions relating to outdoor sports we'd shared during our hours on the road. I considered the fact that I had just added two more people to our Oregon surfing population. By the same token, after 30 years, I'd finally joined the ranks of Oregon skiers.

The sets were overhead and closing out. From behind, I could see the waves kick up brown sand from the ocean floor when they exploded. Not a good sign. The sky was getting pretty dark. I picked the next wave that looked rideable, turned, and paddled with the last of my strength. Making the drop, I angled down the line and saw a huge section shutting down in front of me. With no other option, I dove headfirst into the turbulence.

Certain that my wave wasn't the surfing equivalent of what Steph and Alex had done on the mountain 12 hours earlier (skiing graceful s-turns in the pink sunrise), I walked back up the beach to where our crew was changing into dry clothes. Surprisingly, they showered me in praise for even making it to the outside and attempting to ride one of the set waves. But more gratifying than that was the appreciation they showed for my taking the time to teach them to surf.

It's a sentiment that's been expressed in a million ways, but is there really anything better than sharing stoke with friends?

New Order - Let's Go

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Memory Trigger 3

Salted Drinks
Salty Skin
Sore Ribs
Sandy sandals

The National - Abel

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


The bouys we showing 6 feet at 15 seconds with offshore winds. The reality was some crossed up surf that found me chasing phantom peaks for the first two hours of my session. As Slim put it yesterday, "Sometimes the numbers lie." I'm sure with the South hitting now and sandbars that've been groomed by two days of long interval groundswell, it's epic.

Too bad I used my weekly surf ticket on a stinker.

The Style Council - The Lodgers

Monday, April 02, 2007

Logo a Go Go

I just discovered a cool website that has a library of old surfboard logos. You could kill hours here examining classic old laminates, finding your friends' names, or making a collage of every kind of stick you've ever owned. Check it out at Stanley's Surf Gear.

The Kinks - Holiday in Waikiki