26 February 2010

The Biniak Session

I learned from a friend yesterday that Bob Biniak died recently. I know this is primarily a surf blog, but like so many other surfers of my generation, I grew up skateboarding and worshipping at the altar of Zephyr. I'm not quite sure that I would call the 46 year old me (as opposed to the 14 year old me) a skater. I have no interest in doing ollies or watching street skating. I don't care if Danny Way jumps the Great Wall of China—although I do think Danny Way is amazing. I guess I think of myself as a surfer who skates. And as that person, I am truly saddened by Biniak's death. Let's tell it like it is. It's bad enough when someone dies, particularly someone you remember from your youth. It's even more painful when that someone is in your generation and dies from something that generally kills us in our middle and senior years, thus reminding you that you are no longer the young pup to whom death is but an afterthought.

I decided I would have to surf today in homage to Biniak. I started out at my home break. It is one of the breaks where the young Z-Boys littered the lineup as locals. Some still frequent the place. (As is my practice, I will neither name names nor the spot.) My intent was to do a Biniak session at a place where Biniak would have surfed as a kid. Unfortunately, the tide—at over six feet—ruined all of my plans for such a session. While there were waves, they weren't up to my standards. I'm long past the point when I will paddle out into anything.

I headed south, knowing TPWSRN would have something for me to surf. And surf I did. I would love to proceed to describe some magical wave that came right to me, picked me up and allowed me to enjoy 200 yards worth of face time. You know, one of those idyllic stories about how someone recently departed was obviously watching over and symbolically speaking to the protaganist. Well, that didn't happen. As far as I know, that rarely happens. What I did was surf waves that were primarily closed out. Nothing about the waves during this session was noteworthy.

And it didn't have to be. Noteworthy, that is.

We are all on this journey together. We start out from different places. We embark down different paths. Inevitably, though, the destination is the same no matter who you are, where you've been or where you think you're going. Death is what we're all racing towards. Now, as you can probably tell, I have no hesitation about discussing death. A character in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying says something to the effect that the whole point of being alive is to get ready to be dead a good, long time. Well, yeah. That's true, isn't it?

Biniak's journey is over. He made it to the ultimate destination. I would argue that he arrived a bit early, but I also realize that you get there when you get there. My Biniak session, then, was (as is common when someone dies) a reminder to me that I'm still making the journey. All of us who are still breathing and doing what we do continue down our various paths. We can't stop our journeys just because others finished theirs. It is the human way to consider that—stopping when those around us reach their destinations. I certainly did when my dad died. I probably stood in the middle of my path for a good month contemplating life and death, then I got myself together and continued on my way.

I would bet that Biniak would want all of us skaters and surfers to keep doing what we do. Keep going down those paths. Live your life and do it like you mean it whether you surf, ride a skateboard or spend the majority of your time sitting still and reading books. Just remember not to waste too much time sweating the small stuff.

24 February 2010

I Took My Trip to Wormtown

Worm and I, after many failed attempts, finally got together for a session. Finally. We've tried several times in the past, but something—usually rain—always came up to ruin our plans. She finally said that no matter what, she was coming down to L.A. to surf with me today. Period. No ifs, ands or buts. This was a done deal. For once, there was no serious rain. I had no plans. So, we hit it.

I took her to The Place Which Shall Remain Nameless. Although it's a bit of a drive for me, it's worth it to get away from the crowds at the beaches and points. There were never more than six of us out during the session. The shape left a bit to be desired, but we still enjoyed ourselves.

I surfed TPWSRN yesterday and came away from the session completely spent. Between feet that were shredded on the rocks (which are always there but were made worse by the low tide) and getting worked on the inside, I'd pretty much left everything out there. Nonetheless, I went back for more today. I wanted us to have some space to surf. I also wanted to see Worm in action.

She does not disappoint. I got caught on the inside a few times, but chose to kind of hang out there (and get worked) just so I could watch her waves. She's simply amazing: very much at ease, completely comfortable on the nose, switching stance at will. All the while, she smiled. That's the kind of person with whom I love to surf.

Thanks, Worm, for making this session happen. I learned a lot from watching you. It was great to hang with you in the water. Next time, I'll come down to your neck of the woods.

22 February 2010

Kiss My Black A*@, Stab Magazine!!

Super breed descends

Icah Wilmot is bad news for the white devil. Last week this multi-talented Negro became the first Jamiacan winner of the Pan American championships, held in Cuba, signalling, amongst other things, an uncertain future for the Aryan domination of surfing

Kelly, Dane and Andy are very aware of the racial homogenization that has occurred in every athletic pursuit the genetically superior black man has turned his canetloupe-sized palm to. But it gets worse. Icah not only surfs very well (a four-time National Junior Champ and five time National Open Champ, no less), Icah’s family are not only Jamaican surfing royalty, Icah is not only an accredited ISA judge, surf instructor and holder of a bachelor degree in Information Technology (majoring in enterprise computing), Icah is in a band.

They are called “From the Deep” and not only is he in them, he plays bass. He stands to the side and t’umps out riffs no one hears though everyone needs. The same ones that make petite white women go wide-eyed and silent as they watch. He is a rare combination of the genetic pooling that’s doomed basketball, seen our first Negro president and brought Lou Suluola Samuel into the world (the daughter of Seal and Heidi Klum). – Jed Smith

This piece of shit has since been removed from the publication's website. Obviously, the folks at the magazine signed off on the content or else they wouldn't have allowed this to go live in the first place. So why take it down? Stand your ground and tell us what you really think. Oh wait, you've already done that by allowing Mr. Smith to spout his bullshit with a seeming nod and a wink.

You know, black folks aren't as sensitive as we used to be. I, for one, am one of the least sensitive of the race. Not much rattles me when it comes to race. Basically, I don't care what other people think about race. Everyone is racist in some form or another. Some are more racist than others. I don't believe humans are capable of being unbiased about anything. No religion, race or geographic group is capable of seeing others as equals. Humans always look for, and point out, differences among people.

With that said, fuck you, Stab Magazine. As one who isn't that sensitive, I will admit that this did not amuse me. Yeah, you took it down, but not before people made sure it was circulated. It arrived in my Inbox from other people who were not amused.

Surfing doesn't need this kind of thing. Don't we have enough on our plates with crowded lineups and out of control SUP riders? Stop rocking the damn leaking boat already!

19 February 2010

You Know You've Had a Good Session When . . .

you emerge the winner in a paddle battle with a guy on an 11' board and a woman on a 9'6".

Some people forget that fitness can often trump board size.

I never thought middle age would be this enjoyable.

17 February 2010

Thank You, PG

The pictures hardly do this day justice. What you see below is me going backside followed by me flying off the board with my feet in the air and my dreads going in all different directions. Same old, same old. Wrong!!

This was the day. After the knee replacement, I listened to my body and my mind, waiting for them to come to some agreement about when we'd all be ready to paddle out again. Well, almost a year after surgery, the three of us came together once again. Although my ultimate goal had always been to get back on a surfboard, my secondary goal was to get back on my shorter boards. I got my last custom board in a shorter length as motivation to work toward the secondary goal.

Today was the day I decided it would be the PG/SK seven foot hull or nothing. I've worked hard, given the advice I got from Cher Pendarvis, to strengthen my core so that it would do all the work in popping up. My hesitation in surfing my shorter boards has stemmed from the fact that this new knee bends rather slowly. My once quick pop-ups had slowed to accommodate the new knee. I've noticed over the last week or so that my pop-ups were almost back to normal or as close to normal as they will probably ever be. I figured today was as good a day as any to work on popping up on a shorter board.

I got five waves!!! Granted, they were shaky. (It is a hull, not a longboard.) They were still waves where I got to my feet in time to greet the face of the wave. And with that, my knee replacement goals have all been met. I've got nothing left but to celebrate the fact that I live in a time when they can repair joints and give most of us our lives back.

What happened after that session? I took my PG mat out and got pummeled in the closeouts. I still had a blast though.

Thank you, Paul, for helping me through the knee replacement experience with your boards, mats and wisdom.

15 February 2010

Santa Gnarbara

I went up there yesterday to surf. That was mind-blowing. Not the surf—the going. Before yesterday, I'd never gone any further north than County Line to surf. Ever. I also can't remember the last time I had an entire day to myself. When I tell you it's been years, I'm not kidding.

To say I was stoked would be an understatement.

This trip served several purposes. The main reason I wanted to go was to finally meet my buddy, Mike. He and I became bionic last year (me with the knee and him with a neck fusion). Many an email was sent back and forth as we kept one another sane and positive. In fact, he was the first person I found when I searched the internet for information about surfing and knee replacements. He hadn't had one, but knew of those who had. He stayed close—as close as you can stay over the internet—as I went through the manic depression that accompanied the bionic experience. I, in turn, did the same for him. Our relationship is one that others can't understand. When I needed to rail, he listened. More importantly, he understood. His recovery from the neck surgery has been slower than he would have liked. He, too, has had moments when he needed to express his despair. I heard him. I knew what he was going through. I showed him that there was a light in the tunnel even though he had no idea a tunnel was even in the vicinity.

Anyway, some time ago, Mike got me together with his sister-in-law. She's now one of my surf buddies. I love being in the water with her; her positive energy is contagious. She decided she was going up there this weekend to surf. I wanted to go, but immediately told her I couldn't because of the passive aggressive responses I'm always met with whenever I mention I want to go surf with friends or outside of L.A. (Can you tell there's trouble brewing in paradise? Hey, this is my blog for my purposes. I don't quite know how to tell my story without divulging some facts that probably should be kept private. So sue me.) To make a long story short, a very nice family therapist directed me to go surf. Take the day. Do my thing. When was the last time that happened? Truthfully, it's been so long that I really can't remember. So, yesterday's short jaunt to The Gnarshire was like being on vacation. I was completely off the clock.

Today, of course, I'm back on the clock. There's a play date in full swing as I type. Once the other little boy is rescued . . . I mean, picked up by his mom, I'm off to work for a few hours. As for the ramp, I've not had a chance to ride. I'll go lift weights now and try to hit the ramp before work. The kids are keeping each other occupied. If I hear the blood-curdling scream of an injured 8 year old, I suppose I'll saunter back into the house to see which one of them needs a blood transfusion. Kidding.

Thanks for the hospitality, Mike. I know you said I could name the spot. Don't care. I don't name names . . . except yours!

09 February 2010

"You're F#$*in' Nuts!"

Hey, I can hear you! That's what I should have yelled at the orthopedist (the one who removed the decayed joint and replaced it with that stuff that makes me beep when I go through metal detectors). I guess he thought he was speaking quietly enough not to be heard. He made this sotto voce comment when I told him about the ramp in the backyard. Still, I could see the admiration in his eyes.

Little known fact about Surfsister: I have better than average hearing—so much so that I can almost always hear people clearly when they whisper. I can often clearly hear people speaking in lowered voices on the other side of a room. I can hear every little instrument in a song if the stereo is decent. My ears work quite well.

Anyway, I was in for my post op follow-up. My doctor wanted to know all that I was able to do with the knee. He seemed to be amazed by my enthusiasm and unwillingness to complain. Not once did he say, "Don't do that." He reiterated to me that I can do whatever I damn well please with this knee. His parting words? "I want you to try and wear this knee out." Serious. I used to kid myself that my doctor saw me as a guinea pig. Now I've stopped saying it laughingly. He obviously wants to see what kind of punishment a prosthetic knee can take. I'm more than happy to oblige him in that respect.

08 February 2010

This is Not a Skate Blog


Well, maybe it is . . . a little. This picture, and that trick, were too amazing not to post. Don't worry, you won't be seeing any pictures of me doing anything like that. If you do, it will be followed by a picture of me having fallen off the ramp into the fence. Or it will be followed by a picture of me having fallen off the ramp, through the window and into the Woman Cave.

Rain. Again. Still. Bleh!

06 February 2010

The Avoidance of Pain

I've had more than enough time to think deep thoughts today—stuck at work, making Pandora stations and looking out the window at yet another rainstorm that is truly bringing me down.

Part of what's got me down, I finally realized, is pain. When it rains, I hurt. This was the case prior to receiving my titanium knee. I'm resigned to the fact that this reality won't change now that I've got the knee. For decades, I could predict the rain. It was presaged by a deep down ache in my osteoarthritic bones. Well, I realized today that the ache returns whenever there is precipitation even though those bones have been replaced with something which is prized for its ability to resist corrosion. For me, pain is a reason for melancholy. I don't like to hurt like that (but I don't mind the righteous pain you experience after a three-hour surf session in the sun).

Once I realized that it was the pain—not the rain—that was "harshing my mellow," I started thinking about why it is that so many of us in middle age surf, skate, ride bikes/run more miles than a human should or follow any passion that leads one to be single-minded in his or her dedication to that pursuit. I think it all has to do with pain. Not just physical pain. Psychic pain is just as palpable to the one experiencing it. We are not the 40 and 50 year olds of our parents' generation. Their lives, while certainly difficult in ways this generation cannot relate to, were somewhat predictable. Society told them what to do, told them how to do it and promised them a reward at the end (Social Security, pensions, retirement with gold watches).

Our generation was also promised those things, but we saw that our parents weren't necessarily happy living that life. We also see that there's nothing waiting for us at the end . . . just the end. Many of us tried to follow the party line; we attempted to work at jobs we hated, buy things we didn't need or want, live in houses that were too much. You know what I mean. Many of us quickly realized doing this was pointless and simply gave up, deciding instead to look for the things in life that made us happy. In other words, we surf and skate because even though it often hurts—when you get hit by a board or fall hard on asphalt—it doesn't cause the kind of pain that living that life does. When I work in cubicles, I'm in pain from the moment I park my car in the employee parking lot until I finally get home at night. No lie. Others can tell you similar stories. And this is why we choose to spend the bulk of our time surfing, skating and doing the things that make us smile for the rest of the day.

If I die tomorrow (with little money in the bank and not much to show for this life other than my child and my writing), I will die knowing I've lived my adult life on my own terms. My father died with quite a lot of money in the bank and in the stock market. I don't know that I can say he was ever really happy during the almost 38 years that I had him in my life. He worked. He saved. He didn't seem to have much of a life apart from those things. So, for me it's a no-brainer. I'd rather not be in pain. I surf/skate, therefore I am.

(The builder told me I don't need to cover the ramp when it rains. He told me that at least five times . . . since I asked him that at least five times. As you can see, I still don't follow directions very well. Having done my research long before I ever got the ramp built, I knew enough to position the tarp so that it doesn't rest on the surface of the ramp. How I'll get that tarp dried off and folded is beyond me. No matter. At least the ramp is safe and sound.)

04 February 2010

What a Difference a Day Makes

This was yesterday. Point break. Waves with decent size and a few tasty corners. Glassy. Uncrowded. Nice.
This was today. Beach break. Waves with decent size and peek-a-boo corners. Textured. Seemingly uncrowded with miles of water to either side of me. Yep, people seemed to want to surf where I sat. Not so nice.

What made today completely absurd was the damn shark. I went back to yesterday's spot, only to see three people wasting no time to get out of the water. One of them was CYT. She'd only been in for about five minutes. What the . . . ? Yeah, it had made its appearance. This time, instead of breaching out toward the horizon, hundreds of yards past the lineup, it was trolling on the inside. You know, had the waves been good, I would have paddled out. I ain't afraid of no shark . . . most of the time. The last time I saw a great white breach I stayed in the water. The waves were too good. The Jaws music didn't suddenly start playing and no one went screaming to a horrible and bloody death while being torn into pieces. But when you tell me the shark is near and the waves suck too? Forget it. I ended up back at the home break, surfing those wonderful closeouts.

(Note: Don't I look stylish in the top picture? I'd love to say I've finally mastered this walking stuff. Nope. I still walk up, fall off. Walk up, sink the nose. Walk up and shy away from a bona fide cheater five by not fully committing to hanging those toes into the water. I am getting better. And watching that Worm video has helped immensely. Still, it's hard to practice when you don't have a wave that gives you much shoulder, isn't it?)

02 February 2010

Christening the Ramp

I've had three days of skating on my new backyard behemoth. Days 1 and 3 were without incident. Day 2? Not so much. I took two good falls yesterday. After the first one, I left behind a little skin and blood from my elbow on the ramp. (For some reason, I was dumb enough to believe I wasn't going to fall since my first day of skating was relatively uneventful.) Anyway, I fell hard. I couldn't help but laugh at my stupidity. Lesson learned. Wear every one of those pads!! The second fall was nothing serious, but my feet slid over the edge of the ramp, thereby scraping my ankle bone. Once again, lesson learned. Wear those hi-tops!! Today? No falls. More turns. Just when I was starting to get into the swing of it, my boss called to tell me he needed me at work. He probably saved me from yet another fall.

Yeah, I still surf. In fact, I hit up the home break today. You know, I can see why people get testy when the hordes descend on them in the lineup. I was out there at about 7:45, not bothering anyone and ruling a peak all by my lonesome. Before I knew it, I was swarmed by . . . them. Who are "them"? I don't know—interlopers, that's who. You've got miles of beach on either side of my spot. There are peaks up and down the beach. And yet, here they come, zeroing in on me. Think I didn't throw some stinkeye? Think again.

This was one of those days when I surfed hard. I don't always. Some days I'm relaxed. Some days I'm tired. Some days I sit and enjoy the ocean. Today was one of those days when I had a lot of energy to release. I needed it to go away. So I was on the attack. It's not always a good way to surf, especially for someone like me, someone who's generally laid back and calm. I wasn't feeling any of that today. I just wanted people to stay off my peak and leave me alone. Didn't happen. But I got what I wanted. I even chased down a few (waves, not interlopers).
Two good, hard paddles . . . and I was on it!

Surf hard, skate hard and remember you ain't dead yet!