29 April 2011

Life is Better When You Ride a Mat

This picture was not taken recently. How do I know? Well, there's nothing to smile about these days. This spring's windswell is giving me—and so many other surfers—the blues. There's not much out there to surf. Some would say there's nothing out there to surf. I'm more of an optimist. I think there are waves somewhere, but they're just not where I can easily find them. You know it's bad when I hit a break with the specific intention of riding my mat . . . and go home dry. The waves were horrible. I would not have wanted to surf them on a board. I could not have surfed them on a mat. The mat needs some juice behind it. The crumbly stuff that I might catch on a longboard is almost impossible to catch on a mat, especially since I don't wear fins with long blades.

All we can do, dear friends, is grin and bear it. I'm doing this by finding pictures of myself having a ball in the water. Such pictures make me laugh. They remind me that the ocean gives us so much while asking for so little in return. Of course, we humans are killing our oceans. But I won't go there just yet.

Anyway, grin. Bear it. The weather will change soon enough. The waves will return. And so will the crowds. Pray for fall (my favorite season for surfing).

26 April 2011

Guest Blogger #9: Josh Aggars

Josh is the first of my guest bloggers to offer to write a blog post for my blog. That gave me pause because, well, it went counter to my perfect little paradigm of approaching others to write something for me. I wanted to say "no". In fact, I guess I did initially. What I said to Josh was, in essence, I don't know you and the site to which you've directed me gives me no sense of who you are. Josh would not be deterred. He stayed present by leaving comments on the blog, thus allowing me to get to know him. Then, he sent me his post. And, well, I love it!! Now I know who Josh is. Now I know who Dan is. This surf trip of theirs was one for the books.

When I'm preparing for a surf trip I always visualise the journey, the waves and the rides. I look ahead to the good that will come from being away from routine and regular life. And yet, for all that, things never seem to pan out the way you expect.

Sometimes you set off full of high spirits with your crew expecting great conditions and a great road trip only to encounter burst tires, a gasket change and flat waves when you get to your destination. Other times you can leave in a stinking mood, heavy with the stress of modern life and no money and return the saviour of humanity with your positive outlook after a week featuring the best waves of your life.

Well I want to tell you the story of one of my favourite surf trips of all time. It didn't involve exotic locations or 12 foot waves, turquoise barrels or beautiful coral. Instead it consisted of random events, unplanned brilliance and life affirming memories that will last until the end of days.

The beginning

I was finishing work one gorgeous summer evening when I took a call from my friend Dan. To call him laid back is to do a disservice to beds. The guy is beyond description and I'm not going to waste your time trying. It's enough to say he's the biggest bum this side of the pond and I love him for it.

He wanted to know if I fancied heading off for the weekend down to Devon. For Dan to pick up the phone is one thing but for him to propose anything is a once in a generation kind of event. Knowing this window would close out if I didn't move I said yes and that I'd be round in an hour. He protested that it was only Thursday and that we both had to work the next day but I blew this off as a "to hell with it" moment and got to his in record time.

Without a plan of where we were going and with the light already fading we headed in the rough direction of Devon (I didn't have a map and Dan doesn't get out much so we were winging it a fair bit). After two hours of back roads and unknown progress we decided we might need to stop and camp out.

There was little chance of finding a camp site and even less a chance of being admitted had we found one so we pulled into a farmer's field, backed up along the hedge row and broke out the beers, weed and Dan's eclectic mix tape featuring the Byrds, EPMD, Strauss and RATM to name but a few. We put the seats back, opened the sun roof and gazed at the stars before crashing out at some point. I do remember that during the night I finally understood the saying "don't pee on the electric fence" but little else.

Taunton and an unplanned addition

The next morning we groggily got back on the road when Dan took a call from a Uni mate who happened to live vaguely in the direction of Devon. I say vaguely as it's west in the same way Alaska is west of Atlanta when on route to San Diego!

Letting fate be our guide we found our way to Taunton, Somerset, via a number of U-turns, laps of roundabouts (circular things in roads in England so you can change direction) and a few mounting of curbs. So far so not much surfing but I'm coming to that.

So we eventually arrived at said Uni friends farm house (his name is Ben, say hi Ben, "Hi Ben," you all mutter) to find a couple of vintage Bilbo surfboards in the drive. They were the most beautiful things I'd seen in days (did I mention I'd been stuck in a car with Dan?) and got me stoked in an instant.

Ben said they were his Dad's and that we were free to take one with us for the weekend. I was gobsmacked and beyond grateful so we could hardly turn down the invitation to stay the night to attend the local cider festival with him and his old man.

So near and yet so far

Suffice it to say we had a great night with the locals dancing around like loons and belly laughing til it hurt. I won't bore you with the details but come the morning sore heads and nausea prevailed and I was starting to wonder if we were ever going to even make it to the sea. Ben was all over the place and Dan was nowhere to be seen. Great!

So it was with some relief that a few minutes after eating a full English (breakfast in the UK consisting of grease, fat, meat, more grease and a side portion of artery blockage) Dan appeared over the hedge row bouncing along on the side of a tractor! Clearly fathers in Taunton are more forgiving of their daughters' bed fellows than those at home I thought.

After a bit of story swapping and back slapping we finally hit the road and were on our way to the sea in the most cramped car since man invented the internal combustion engine. We headed to Croyde Bay on the North Devon coast, a beautiful place with an excellent right and left beach break.

It was as crowded as sin but we hadn't come this far to give up and with a gorgeous clear blue sky and the sun beating down (a precious occurrence even in UK summers) we took our boards and headed down to the beach.

As we paddled out I started to feel the full effects of that breakfast as it merged with the previous night's cider and started to play the conga on my colon. So you can imagine how nice and refreshing it felt to finally duck dive time and again on my way out to the lineup.

Surfing Nirvana

I don't remember how long we stayed out or how many times I promised myself just one more but I can honestly say that day in the water was like a dream. The atmosphere in the lineup was great, the camaraderie between the three of us like nothing else and the waves, well, let's just say they were nothing short of Nirvana for me.

The swell was good with a nice Easterly helping generate some fast and hollow barrels. I was serene and stoked in equal measure as I pulled off some sick moves (or so I recall now). Ben's Dad's board was a beast to ride and we all took turns. Dan seemed to get the best out of it (the boy does have talent if nothing else) and would have been the focus of any camera had we had one.

I've got to say that day in the water was God like genius. Just thinking back on it now raises a beaming smile. We camped out overnight nearby and returned the next morning to a pretty flat sea so felt doubly blessed by our luck the day before. We got in and paddled around but there was nothing really working.

Closing out

It was with some sadness then that we later dropped Ben back at his place and thanked his Dad graciously for the loan of his board. We made our way home on a slow drive in the still beaming sunshine stopping off in one more farmer's field for a final smoke in the swaying long grass.

I'll always remember that weekend and that feeling of freedom, comedy and good times. I've had many great surf trips away since, many in some exotic locations, but nothing has ever quite matched that one for the sense of sheer bliss that I recall. And the sad part is I've never seen Ben since.

Josh writes about beach life, surfing, travel and more. His passion for surfing takes him to amazing places around the World and comes through in his regular articles as he explores all aspects of the sport. He's known to have the largest collection of flip flops anywhere in the Western hemisphere and never leaves home without at least two pairs of regular and one pair of animal flip flops. If you would like to read more from Josh check out his blog at www.flipflopscity.com/blog/

23 April 2011

The "I've Been Remiss in Having Dance Parties" Dance Party!

I've never been a big fan of Rick James even though I grew up hearing his music all the time. This is the one song of his that I actually love. Of course, my interest in Rick James was renewed by Dave Chappelle.

What did the five fingers say to the face?

This blog hasn't seen a dance party in a month of Sundays . . . or longer. I was feeling inspired today, so I went and found something I wanted everyone to dance to.

"The Midnight Special"? Friday nights on NBC. I clearly remember watching that and Don Kirshner's "Rock Concert". That was back in the days before videos. You got to see the people live, lip synching and on your television. Good times. (And now I feel old, thank you very much!)

What the hell! Just get your dance on!

20 April 2011

Knee Replacement: Two Years Later

Oh, snap!! I just realized today is the anniversary of me joining the ranks of those who walk around with titanium parts.

I guess I am finally at the point where I can say, "What knee replacement?" I know it's there. The scar, which I see every day given the fact that I'm always changing in and out of my clothes and into and out of a wetsuit, reminds me of the surgery. Stairs sometimes remind me that the joint is an aftermarket model. But few things in my everyday life make me worry or obsess about it.

I've gotten on with my life. There are things I should not do. My doctor would prefer than I not run, therefore I run sporadically. I ran a little today simply because I was bored; I couldn't bear to walk down this long hill when I could just run. So I ran. Another thing I'm hesitant to do is skate anything that has a lot of vert. I doubt that a fall would end well, especially since I cannot knee slide. I continue to skate though. I will get my ramp resurfaced soon. I will also continue to skate my longboard on relatively flat ground.

I can surf hard and I'm not in pain.

What knee replacement?

19 April 2011

Surfin' a Pig

The second of my soon-to-be three pigs is now getting put through its paces at a local beach break that I don't normally surf. This board does not disappoint. In fact, I've yet to surf a pig that does.

This board, unlike my first pig, is a beast. Thank god I lift weights. There is no way I'd be able to carry this thing if I didn't. It's the only board in my quiver that must be carried atop my head. I can only hold it under my arm for so long before I'm forced to stop and adjust. It's no wonder surfers used to carry their boards on their heads back in the day. It's just plain easier.

This board, like my first pig, has no leash plug and sports a big D fin. If you surf boards like this enough, you stop thinking about using a leash. In fact, leashes need not apply. This is not to say that I don't lose my board. It happens, but not as much as it used to. Nevertheless, when I surf a spot with rocks, I leave my I-don't-need-no-stinkin-leashes attitude in the car. I take a board that happily accommodates a leash. I really don't feel it's my duty to help the ding repair folks put all of their kids through college. But when there are rocks and I don't have a leash? Well, let's just say I can probably pay for those kids' grad school educations as well!

When I got home from today's session, someone alerted me that my pig and I could also be found surfing here. Oink!

15 April 2011

More Custom Rubber

My new wetsuit arrived. Sweetness and light!! It's so nice to be in something that actually fits me in all the right places (especially the hips, butt and shoulders). And I get to express myself too? Hell yeah, it's worth it!

Thanks again, Ryo!

12 April 2011

Restore Default Settings?


That's more like it!!

08 April 2011

The Delicate Balance Between Happiness and Survival

I started this post yesterday while I was at work. It had a different title and I was only going to speak to the fact that I'd done my first dawn patrol session of the season.

But I spent much of yesterday realizing that I just can't do "it". As much as we need the money, or so I thought, I need my life back and my child needs his mom back. The bottom line is that none of us is happy with me working this job. It's not just that this is the worst job I've ever had. And that it is. My absence from the house has upset the balance of our little world. I'm not happy. The kid's not happy. Hell, I know even the dog is a little put out by the fact that I'm gone all day. This is when I start feeling torn, pulled in all directions. The money is good, yes. The quality of life for all of us as a result? Not so much.

Therein lies the rub. Do you stay because doing so will ensure your survival, at least in terms of getting food on the table and the bills paid? Or do you go, knowing that happiness is something money can't buy? The more I think about it, the more I see all of this clearly. When I'm barely employed, my family is basically happy. My child loves having me at his disposal (for food, love and, most important, emotional support). I love being barely employed. I can do my thing--mom, surfer, unpaid writer, skater, ne'er-do-well and gad about the ocean. And my thing makes me happy.

Is happiness enough of a reason to go against all that we're taught as Americans about how we're supposed to live our lives? You're supposed to go to work, striving ever harder to make as much money as you can. And all of those bright and shiny things we dangle in front of your faces? Your hard earned dollars are supposed to go toward the conspicuous consumption of those things. But I'm not a conspicuous consumer. I don't have a giant TV, a new car, an iPhone, expensive clothes or even expensive tastes. I'm not interested in getting ahead of the next guy or gal. I don't see it as a race to the top because, really, what is everyone racing to the top of?

In trying to come to terms with the decision I'm making about this job, I now see that I'm doing what's best. It's not what's financially best, but it's what will keep us all smiling in spite of worries about paying the bills. Right now, I can pay the bills, but I am in misery five days a week. I want to be stronger. I'd like to think I'm strong enough to withstand the misery. Sadly (which is something my kid says all of the time and it's hysterical to hear that nonchalantly coming out of his mouth as he discusses his day), I am weak when it comes to making money. I feel no pull towards the dollar. Perhaps that makes me a Communist or a rasta--I was going to say "hippie", but "rasta" seemed a better choice.

We will not starve. That is certain. I can't say what the future holds in terms of our abilities to pay other bills, but I'd bet we'll muddle through just like we did before I took this job.

Before I go, I'm going to post this for posterity. I put it on a private blog that I share with some other surfers. I'm going to post it here for me. I will look at it whenever I need a reminder of why I quit. These reviews, about my current place of employment, came from glassdoor.com:

"No parking on site.
Salary is very low compared to comparable positions at other companies.
A lot of time is wasted on finding who to blame instead of fixing the issue."

"Management is disorganized, rude, disrespectful, overly-demanding, and does not recognize a job well done. Operations systems are from the stone-age. Training does not exist. Worst of all, they screwed up my tax forms, making me have to pay instead of receiving my expected refund. When I called corporate to figure out what happened, they had the nerve to tell me it was my fault and that I need to take it up with my tax preparer! I cannot stress this enough; DO NOT WORK FOR XXXX!!!!"

"very low pay, company don't recognize you for your hard work; they only see your success through your manager, poor communication within company, constantly messing up your pay check, constant last minute update and they expect you to participate, will not give employee a pay raise "because they comp. is in a pay raise freeze" BS! been like that for the last 3yrs! rarely promote from within, hire management from outside but has poor training so your sales associate has to "help train" new manager in."

"I made a big mistake by leaving my job at a good company thinking XXXX would be a good opportunity.
Real life Devil Wears Prada management style is shocking.
Extremely disorganized; the company lacks resources and structure you would expect a big fashion brand like XXXX would have.
To top it off, the location is in Vernon- a very industrial area next to a slaughter house.
There is no parking on site so you have to wait for a shuttle or walk to your car (which is scary at night).
For the most part morale at company is very low.
Turn over is extremely high."

"WARNING FOLKS: GET YOUR PENS OUT and take notes. One thing you need to be aware of on day one... is THE EXECUTIVE OFFICE (need I say more). In my 20+ plus years in business, I have never seen a company sooooo dysfunctional, and soooo poorly managed, it's absolutely pathetic. It starts out at the top and never gets better. And the word here is "denial" but I'm not sure what's worse... the politics and ego stroking that goes on or those who allow it to occur in the first place. In any case, the bathrooms are disgusting and parking situation is nothing short of inspirational. While Vernon can be a tough place to work at times, and doesn't really cater to a 9-5 white collar office crowd, it's has some great hole in the wall eateries, though. I think the most disappointing (besides not paying it's damn bills) aspect of my short lived career at XXXX is this: Management really doesn't care about their employees or what happens day to day, how you feel or what kind of example it sets for itself. And as long as you know this, you've probably already started looking for your next job..."

After reading those, I was just glad I never invested much energy in this place. I was just there for a paycheck. And even that paycheck wasn't enough to keep me there. The one thing I did love about the place was many of the people I worked with or near; I will truly miss them. Good luck to all of those who stay there. You're going to need it!

Now if I can just get my email to work, as I sit here at my desk, I can send the note to HR telling them I'd like today to be my last day. (Yes, it's the final day of the pay period. That's how I roll!)

02 April 2011

Under Quarantine?

Apparently so. Whenever a case of swine flu is detected and confirmed, quarantine is inevitable.

I've got an extreme case of swine flu.

There is already one pig in my quiver, right? Well, I now find myself faced with the reality of owning two more. One of them is awaiting glassing. The other, which I hadn't been looking for or even thinking about, was one I lucked into. The best thing of all is that not one of them is like the other. The term "variations on a theme" comes to mind when I think about the soon-to-be three oinkers in my quiver.

This house will be under quarantine until further notice!! (I will post pictures once all of the pigs are here with their rightful owner!)