27 January 2008

CityZine Article #3

Surf Reporting At Its Finest

A surf report is a surf report is a surf report. Los Angeles, like so many other coastal cities and towns all over the country, boasts numerous websites that provide a once or twice daily description of the waves at the more notable breaks. The typical surf report usually sounds something like this, “1 to 2 foot with poor shape but expect it to clean up a little with the tide change.” Such information is helpful to surfers, albeit for a small window of time since the tide, wind and current often change quickly. A report given at 6:30 a.m. is of little or no use to someone sneaking out of work for a 10:00 a.m. session. As a result, surf reporting is a thankless task. Surfers are more likely to curse surf reporters than to praise them.

Surf reporters remain a faceless group—devoid of personality or any traits that distinguish one surf reporter from another—that provides a cut and dried service for which surfers pay a monthly fee. In the world of Los Angeles surf reporting, there is one face in that crowd, one who uses his surf blog as an outlet for his musings on surfing, Venice and the world at large. He bikes down to the beach every morning at dawn, takes pictures of the ocean, makes note of the conditions and then returns home to head out to his real world job working for a Registered Investment Advisor. Those who subscribe to SwellMagnet know him as “MC,” the surf reporter for the Venice area. The blog world knows him as “Dogtownsurfer,” the writer of Random Thoughts of a Surf Reporter (www.venicesurfreport.com), a blog that is part surf report, part hobo soap opera and part daily rant.

Hobo soap opera? In a word, yes. Early last year, Dogtownsurfer decided it was time to get to know the homeless men who lived by the Venice Pier. These are guys who local surfers and people in the neighborhood see and ignore on a regular basis. In his March 8 post, Dogtownsurfer wrote that he was going to make an effort to meet these men he later nicknamed “The Boyos”. When asked about it recently, he explained further.

“I always found it fascinating that as I was getting ready to head for work, freshly shaved and showered, there was a group of guys who lived on the beach and were looking for their next beer at 6:30 in the morning,” he mused. “While I think, for the most part, I was seen as a source of beer money in the beginning, a real friendship was established with most of the guys along the way.”

For a time, The Boyos were the focus of the blog, their relationship with Dogtownsurfer a curious one. The rule they all understood was that any money Dogtownsurfer gave them was to be spent on booze, not food. Many readers surely thought Dogtownsurfer’s attitude toward these men was one of condescension. He supplied them with alcohol, took pictures of them when they were often at their worst and seemingly used them for his own amusement. Any regular reader of the blog knows The Boyos were more than blog fodder. Dogtownsurfer, unlike the average reader of his blog, does not judge them. He accepts that their lives revolve around alcohol. When one of them, Dave, returned from 90 days of rehab only to discover he could not find a sober living facility to which to transition, Dogtownsurfer was clearly disturbed about the probable outcome of the situation:

“Dave is a likeable guy and I think it would be a shame if, after staying sober for 90 days, he falls back into the life simply because he doesn't have a place to stay that gets him away from the constant drink-pass out-drink-pass out-drink-go to bed-wake up with the shakes-drink-pass out lifestyle that is The Boyos.”

If this were a big budget Hollywood movie, Dogtownsurfer (as played by Matthew McConaughey, who in real life fancies himself a soul surfer) would work hard to help The Boyos get clean and sober. One of them would fall off the wagon and die, thus serving as a reminder to the others of the life they no longer want to lead. Well, this is not a movie. The Boyos are perfectly happy drinking their lives away. This is probably the reason why they developed a liking for their benefactor. Dogtownsurfer accepts these men for who they are. They are homeless. They are drunks. They are still people (who happen to be homeless and drunk). Tommy, the one who claims to hold a post-graduate degree, reads the newspaper religiously. Christian was once a Marine. Victor is a cancer survivor who recently disappeared from Venice because he was at the VA receiving chemotherapy for a recently discovered cancer. Dogtownsurfer’s blog reminds us that these men have stories to tell, even when we want to turn a deaf ear to them.

Random Thoughts of a Surf Reporter is not a blog for the faint of heart. When Dogtownsurfer is on a tear, no group is safe from one of his rants. Some have accused him of racisim. Others believe him to be sexist. What is clear from reading the blog is that Dogtownsurfer never hesitates to say what he thinks, regardless of whether he is being politically correct or careful not to offend. Okay, he is rarely politically correct and is often offensive. His August 13 entry, entitled “Why I Love My Blog,” answers a reader who accused him of racism for saying a burned beyond recognition grilled cheese sandwich looked like Wesley Snipes:

“It's the fact that I own it, I can say what I want, and when a fucking gutless punk named D**** B*****, or B***** D****, writes in to say that I am both fat and a racist because he didn't like my Wesley Snipes grilled cheese post yesterday, I can go ahead and tell the whole world exactly what I think of this loser dipshit cumstain asswipe fuckwad pussy assed loser of a fucking spastic coward and I don't have to worry about offending him or a boss when I do it.”

Traffic on Random Thoughts of a Surf Reporter is up to 600 to 800 hits a day. Google Analytics leads Dogtownsurfer to believe three groups of people read his blog: those who read it for the surf report, those who read it for the content related to Venice and those who enjoy the humor.

When asked what he finds most rewarding about the blog, Dogtownsurfer expressed an appreciation “for the positive feedback” he receives. “Knowing that my 20 minutes of work each day gives someone a laugh, or helps one of The Boyos get some stuff they need or someone buys them a beer because of the reports, or even just makes the day a little bit more bearable for one person, is really very rewarding.”

All photos by Dogtownsurfer


At 1/28/08, 11:56 PM, Blogger Sharkbait said...

That was a great read!

At 1/29/08, 11:58 AM, Blogger gracefullee said...

I read that report for all three reasons... and a fourth: to avoid work. I think that's valid.


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