28 June 2010

Invasion of the Bluegills!

In what scientists are calling a "confluence of aquatic birds of a feather," three Bluegills were spotted trolling the shore of a local beach break yesterday. These creatures are not generally known to travel in schools, but scientists say that when the stars align and the moon is in the Seventh House, one might be lucky enough to see these virtually finless creatures at play in the surf.

Photographers from the National Geographic, News of the World and Wikipedia are reportedly heading down to Southern California in hopes of capturing these creatures in their natural habitat.

Please stay tuned for more updates!

26 June 2010

It's All My Fault

Mea culpa!

I got a new board. I waxed my new board. I shortened the leash loop (even though I don't plan on wearing a leash with it often). I checked surf report. I was ready to surf it the following day. Fail!!! There were no waves worthy of this board today. In fact, those things masquerading as waves weren't even worthy of my piggish longboard hull. There really wasn't any there there (to paraphrase Gertrude Stein).

It's my fault that the waves didn't deliver. You get a new board and the curse begins. No waves for you . . . at least not on that board. It's like when you wash your car—not that I wash mine often enough to test this theory—and then it rains. Same thing. Your car puts a curse on the weather. My board put a curse on the surf. I'm sorry, fellow surfers. Forgive me.

Be the 29th kid on your block to get one!

You won't see this kind of workmanship and ingenuity from a pop-out or a mass-produced foam board. Jack's and Val Surf ain't gonna have anything this mind-blowing either.

You've got to see it up close to believe it!

Ruling it with wood and foam.

Just plain beautiful.

Thank you, Jon. It's boards like this that get happily surfed to death. My mom has a friend who always wins in Vegas! Always. It's uncanny. And she only plays the slots. She says certain machines call to her. I'm not kidding either. At one point, she won six figures in one fell swoop. Hit the biggest jackpot that machine had to offer. What's my point? Well, boards sometimes call to me. It doesn't happen often. The last board that did this was my Chris Slick . . . and I surfed that board until I figured we'd both had enough. There were enough heel dents, fixed dings, snaps, crackles and pops to show how much I loved that board. My next Chris Slick, the one that replaced the first? Not so much. That one never called to me at all. I just settled on it because I wanted to always have a Slick in my quiver; the magic isn't there either. It's just a board.

When I was at Sacred Craft, I didn't even know Wegener. I'd seen his interview on Liquid Salt, but had never spoken to him. I didn't even know he was one of my local shapers. Nevertheless, I saw a Bluegill in his booth and was immediately awestruck. That board, like well-built guys who slowly take their shirts off because they know it will make you look, made sure it got my attention. I didn't even know what it was. I didn't care. I knew I had to have one. (This is the same thing that happened the first time I read about surf mats. I'd never even seen a mat, but I knew I must have one.) There's a picture on this blog of me checking this board out in the booth. Even after we left Sacred Craft, I couldn't stop thinking about this board. So, I checked Jon Wegener's site . . . only to find no mention of the Bluegill. Well, that didn't sit too well with me. I wanted answers, dammit!!! That led me to send Jon an email. The rest, as they say, is history.

25 June 2010

I Hear Mine is Now Ready!

My Bluegill is ready. I can't wait to get it in the water! Oh, wait!! It might help to pick it up from the shaper first, huh?

21 June 2010

Livin' La Vida Loca

What? Another concert? Another concert for the woman who, prior to May, hadn't seen any live music in about a decade? Look at me going out at night, acting like I'm not somebody's mother!


She is, I believe, the prophet. Not a prophet.

The Prophet.

Tell her no secrets, she'll tell you no lies.

Sister girl made her point last night—singing in stilettos, plain old yellow sweatpants, a yellow t-shirt that she may have found at the Goodwill, a bowler hat, some funky earrings and some leather arm things. And she still turned that shit out! Because . . . it ain't about the Beyoncéness of it all. Either you've got the chops or you don't.

The Prophet. If black folks weren't so intent on finding leadership in a male figurehead, we would have anointed this woman a long time ago as the Second Coming (of MLK, Malcolm, Stokely or whatever other man we've thought could lead us out of one thing and into something better). One never need to ask her what she thinks. While you weren't paying attention, she's already told you.

Oh, yeah. I went surfing today. That is all.

20 June 2010

Happy Father's Day!

My dad died one year before my child was born. Sadly, he never got to know his beautiful grandson with the kick-ass sense of humor. (Man, this child cracks me up!!)

My mom still lives in that house. I live right around the corner, in part, because that gives her easy access to the only grandchild she'll ever have.

Anyway, this is a picture of me and my dad back in the day . . . way back in the day. That suit and tie scare me a little—as do my little gloves and purse—but you can't tell me my dad wasn't styling something fierce!

Happy Father's Day to all of the cool dads and surrogate dads I know and don't know. Give yourselves a pat on the back. While you're at it, go surfing! It's Father's Day and International Surfing Day! Make your kids wax your boards or something. You deserve it!

18 June 2010

So Bummed! (Not Surf Related)

I have two degrees in English. That means I have permission to (but choose not to) brag about all of the letters I can attach to my name.



(I have another degree as well, but that one has been almost completely worthless—save one friendship that was worth the money and the effort spent in getting those two letters—so I will not even type those letters onto this screen.)

I say all this to explain why I am so bummed. I love great fiction. Good fiction is satisfactory. Great fiction is orgasmic. It's life-changing. It makes you smarter than you were when you first looked at the cover of that book and decided you must take it home. Although I am not religious, I believe a great author is doing God's work.

With that said, I learned yesterday that my favorite modern author has died. Granted, none of us will live forever. It saddens me, though, to know that I have nothing left to look forward to from this man. In my mind, he could do no wrong—even though he wrote some books that I either couldn't read at all or painfully plodded through. Either way, his writing made me better. I was better for having had the stamina to read his work. I was better for being able to follow pages upon pages of words with little to no punctuation. I was better because I got it. I could never explain his work, but I always understood what he was saying. And there were times when his books stayed with me for days. I'd finish a novel and think, "How did he do that?"

There will never be another like him. Ever.

From NPR:

Nobel Prize-Winning Author Jose Saramago Dies

Jose Saramago won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998. He was the first author writing in Portuguese to be honored in almost 100 years of Nobels. His work is noted for mixing historical events with fantasy to tell the stories of characters struggling against authority. Saramago did not start writing fiction until late in life, yet he produced more than a dozen novels. Saramago died at his home on the Canary Island of Lanzarote after a long illness. He was 87.

17 June 2010

From The Huffington Post


Norman Ollestad

Author, Crazy for the Storm

On the first morning, our surf guide, Mick, anchored his dory a quarter mile off Carenero Island, one of many sprinkled like bushy green jigsaw pieces along the Caribbean coastline of Bocas Del Toro, Panama. My eight-year-old son, Noah, stood beside me, eying the turquoise waves peeling gently from their peak.

"Perfect," I said.

"But the reef will cut me," he said, pointing to the cinnamon-colored reef dappling the ocean like underwater clouds.

"No way. It's deep," I said. "You'll never even know the reef is there."

"But I can see it."

"Isn't it beautiful?"

"No, it's scary."

The past six months came rushing at me: Noah's poor grades, Noah getting bullied on the playground, being excluded from birthday parties. Noah sobbing "I'm stupid" and "I can't do anything right." He needed a shot of confidence, he needed to experience some ineffable beauty, he needed a good surf trip.

A three-footer crumbled toward us--an open, smiling face.

"Check out that great little wave," I said.

Ignoring me, Noah sat down on the floor of the boat and started an epic battle between a container of sunblock and a bar of wax. In my fantasy Noah was supposed to be primed and ready for this very moment--salivating over the waves like a golden retriever spotting a ball. There would be no need for me to apply force. As I described in my memoir Crazy for the Storm, my father and I used to have similar battles when I was a boy.

"I hate surfing," Noah griped right on cue.

My voice dropped several octaves and I pointed to the water.

"Get in or I'll throw you in."

Surfing is the best medicine--my father had instilled this principle in me when I was very young. He coerced me into all kinds of dangerous situations while surfing and skiing. Being pushed to confront my fears instead of spending fun-filled weekends playing at birthday parties made me furious. "When you're thirteen you'll thank me for making you surf," he would tell me. "You gotta have a place to go, a thing that can make you feel good."

At age eleven, I was in a plane crash with my father, his girlfriend, and the pilot of our chartered Cessna. We slammed into an 8,600-foot mountain, engulfed in a blizzard. By the end of the nine-hour ordeal, after clawing down steep, icy terrain, I was the only survivor. Without my father's tests of will and focus in the surf and snow, I wouldn't have made it. And over the years, surfing has given me a sliver of lucidity, a tilt in perspective, a transcendent buoyancy that to this day helps me navigate adversity.

"Paddle for this one," I urged.

Noah stroked hard and I gave him a push, but the wave slipped under his board. We turned around to see if another one was coming. Uh-oh, big set on the horizon. The first wave stood up and pitched before we could make it over. Noah got crushed, held under for ten long seconds, and I had to tow him to the surface by his armpit. "You have to get right back in the saddle," I whispered as sweetly as possible. He was too dazed to protest and I pushed him into a punchy little three footer. Once he made it to the shoulder of the wave, he kicked out and paddled straight for the boat. "Now I really hate surfing," he declared.

That afternoon, loud voices woke me from a nap. The shrieks drew me to our wooden B&B. Noah was fishing off our porch with three boys on each side of him, his towhead as conspicuous as a single scoop of vanilla ice cream in a bowl of dark chocolate. The local kids showed him how to wrap the line around a stick and bait the hook with a ball of flour paste. With the line dropping between his dangling feet, Noah jerked the string as a fish darted for the bait. Too early, but Noah was hooked.

"How about a quick surf," I suggested.

"I'm fishing with these guys," Noah said, opening a plastic bag full of six-to-eight-inch fish. "This is their dinner."

"Cool," I said. We didn't come here to fish, I grumbled to myself.

"That's Chambo," said Noah, pointing to the cherub-faced kid wearing tighty-whities who had just snagged a fish. "Well, that's his nickname because he likes to fight. It means 'boxer.'"

"How'd you figure that out?" I asked, knowing he didn't understand any Spanish.

Before I got an answer, the kids stood up and rushed down the length of the pier, yelling and laughing. Noah followed them, jumping into the crystal blue water.

For the next four days, Noah would only surf the "Mushbomb"--a gutless dribble of a wave. Constantly preoccupied, I'd asked Noah where his head was. "I want to get back and play with the guys," he'd say.

I thought the local kids would grow tired of their toilsome exchanges with Noah--the hand signals and the maddening misinterpretations--but every morning Chambo and company would emerge from their shanties ready to engage. Noah would teach them how to roam the Internet on our laptop, then he'd organize a fishing expedition via canoe to one of the reefs.

* * *

On our last night, as the sun dipped behind Carenero Island, Noah and I drank out of a coconut and watched the waves limp into the Mushbomb. Noah was tired from the multiple rides he got that day. We had paddled up the beach to a well-defined point wave and surfed for two hours--a miracle considering he had refused the same offer four days in a row. He never snagged the long reeler I had envisioned for him, never clocked enough surf time to reach the next level where I believed he'd tap his well of confidence. Had the whole trip been a waste of time? Should I have forced the issue like my father would have?

The ocean darkened with the sky to a royal blue, and in the fading light I thought back on those eight-hour fishing adventures Noah had orchestrated. He could have given up, or succumbed to the pressure to find his confidence the way I had--two generations of dogma weighing down on him. Instead, Noah carved out his own path, finding that transcendent shot of self-esteem I thought only possible from surfing.

"You're a great son, Noah," I said, kissing his sun-glazed cheek. "I always learn a lot from you."

His little head nodded and he pointed to a dark wave hitting the Mushbomb--the biggest and best we'd ever seen break there.

"Ah, man. I wish I was on it," he said.

14 June 2010

The Self-Timer is Not Your Friend

Ha ha!! I'd decided that I would finally post a picture and reveal myself on the blog. I figured the first day of my 47th year was as good a time as any to show the real me (i.e., the one people see on dry land).

Well, this was the best I could do. Obviously, I am not good at this push-the-button-and-then-run-to-stand-in-front-of-the-camera thing. I do believe that's a pretty good picture of our trashcan though.

And, yes, I did surf today with one of my favorite people in the world. I've got no complaints about 47.

13 June 2010

How Old Would You Be if You Didn't Know How Old You Was?

That's a damn good question, Mr. Satchel Paige. In fact, it's a valid question for those of us who have remained extremely active into our middle years.

I turn 47 tomorrow. 47. Four decades plus most of another.

And Satchel Paige's question is a good one. I'm at a point in my life where I don't pay much attention to my age. There are some reminders—like the damn presbyopia and the now-resolved osteoarthritis—but I generally feel great physically and content emotionally.

So as my 47th year approaches, I'm faced with a life in which many major changes are afoot. Americans believe life should be easy or, at least, stable by the time you reach my age. I know better. Life is unpredictable. Humans are unpredictable. Swells are unpredictable.

I'm not a great believer in stasis. Things change. One gets older and less inclined to accept the status quo, particularly when the status quo does little to contribute to her happiness. On the eve of my 47th birthday, I'm making difficult decisions that will make it hard to be full of birthday cheer. Nevertheless, I make them with my eyes open . . . as we all should by the time we reach this age.

Actually, I don't know how old I'd be if I didn't know how old I was. I'm just happy that I will be able to have a birthday surf for the first time since 2007. In 2008, I was on the injured reserve list with an injury to my right knee. In 2009, I was back on the injured reserve list because of the replacement of my left knee. I will be surfing on my birthday in 2010.

I like where I am and who I've become. I suppose I'd tell Mr. Paige that we'd just have to take a look at my birth certificate in order to determine my actual age and that I'm happy to be the age I am . . . reading glasses and all.

11 June 2010

Methinks One of Those Has My Name On It

Wegener Bluegills waiting to be matched with good homes. I'm not sure which one of those belongs to me. And since Jon Wegener is out of town for a week, I will look at this picture longingly, casting my loving gaze on each and every board shown, until I'm given word that my board is ready to come home.

10 June 2010

Today's Workout and Subsequent Sore Bionic Knee . . .

were brought to you by the wicked stairs at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. I hit these stairs every couple of weeks just to do something different and give my lower body some love. I've surfed a lot of late and knew I'd have to take a day off today. My shoulders went on strike, daring me to cross the imaginary picket line, waiting to pelt me with rotten tomatoes while hurling four-letter epithets (SCAB!!!) in my direction. In other words, there would be no surfing today. So, I opted to do the stairs. I hadn't tackled them in a few weeks as I find them a bit boring. It takes forever to climb to the top. Going down is treacherous, therefore most of us take the hiking trails that serpentine down the hill. I think it takes me about an hour to go up and come back down three times. Running in the sand is much more enjoyable, but I don't want to make a habit of it too often until I'm certain my knee can handle it. My key to doing them non-stop? Don't look up. Just put one foot in front of the other, regulate your breathing, ignore the burning in your quads and make sure your iPod is up loud enough to drown out your tortured breathing as you get closer to the top.

Of course, now my knee, quads and glutes are killing me. What's most important is that my shoulders feel just fine. I'll be back on a board tomorrow.

06 June 2010

Guest Blogger #6: Erin Ashley

She.is.the.real.deal. (Was that enough periods to make my point?)

Erin Ashley is simply remarkable. I'm not only speaking of her surfing. I'm talking about the person both in and out of the water. She's a woman who says what she means and means what she says. Her recent interview with Liquid Salt was pretty damn amazing. What readers didn't see was the portion of the interview where she talked at length about her experiences in NOLA after Katrina. This chica pulled no punches. That is so typical of Worm. She tells it like it is whether you like it or not. Ain't no shame in her game. Her surfing? Well, in a word, astounding. You'd think someone who surfs that well would be full of herself, dropping in on everyone and cursing out those she deems kooks. Wrong. Worm is a sweetheart. She, like me, believes you're supposed to go out there and have some fun. And that she does. That's the kind of surfer I respect most: smart, humble, polite and always wearing a smile.

She's been doing a Kerouac thing of late. Here is what she wrote for this blog as a result:

we are very lucky human beings indeed. Fortunate enough to be born in a country where possibilities are endless and we are never ready to settle for the status quo. Where we don't have to travel to a foreign land for a better life. It is all theoretically within our reach as long as we are willing to stretch them. Unfortunately i feel we are taught from a younger age that while it is within our reach we cannot all achieve this goal. that only some will succeed and the others will have not tried hard enough. this eventually fills us with indifference for others plights.

i have seen this biproduct first hand. I saw the worst of what we can do to one another. How deep the trenches of apathy can reach. Saw what death and despair in the flesh combined with our collective indifference has allowed. I've buried those memories.

I consider myself fortunate though because before these trips i never knew how important the word thank you was until i was thanked for giving someone hope. I discovered listening to someones story can remind them that we all matter. that we all yearn to be heard and none of us deserve to be forgotten. I was reminded that people will help people because in the end we are all in this together. i saw the true beauty of mankind.

what you do today is itself the extent of revolution. It's limits and its triumph