A bit snarky, don’t you think? Oh, the bitterness is almost palpable.
I must’ve heard that cutting little statement at least a dozen times during my recent visit to Ohio. Did it get old? Absolutely. Honestly, they could’ve insulted my hometown in a hundred different ways by discussing… oh, I don’t know, the horrible traffic, the pollution, the crowds, the overabundance of plastic surgery, and so on. But no, they had to bring up our lack of seasons. It was frustrating to say the least. Though my retort was usually sharp—I’d just mention that during my weeklong visit I’d seen the sun once and that my rental car had a sizeable dent from a Pomeranian-sized chunk of hail.
Anyway, I’d usually explain (after my ice retort, of course) that LA’s seasons were a little more varied—especially if you’re a surfer like myself.
Summer: You’d think that this would be the best time of year to surf in LA, but unfortunately, you’d only be partly right. Sure, the water’s warm—it usually hovers around 60-70 degrees—and the weather’s quite pleasant, but the beaches are usually packed. It isn’t rare to see 100+ surfers out in the line-up at Malibu, which is the surfing equivalent of trying to navigate the 405 during rush-hour traffic in a gerbil-powered big rig.
Fall: Now this is the ideal time to be a surfer in LA. The weather and water’s still relatively warm, the Santa Ana winds are going strong, and we’re usually receiving crossed up north and south swells. But the coup de grâce is the fact that all the schools are back in session, and the line-ups are now comfortably empty—just one more reason I’m glad I’m done with high school.
Winter: Yes, LA has a winter, and honestly, it’s not too bad. The weather and water’s cooling down, and we’re usually receiving heavy north swells by this time too. The only downside’s the rain. Why? Well, surfing in the accumulated waste of one of the largest cities on Earth might have some unintended consequences (i.e. possible X-men style powers… wait, that’s not a bad thing. Surfing in pollution is awesome!)
Spring: Well, this spring has been pretty fun so far, but typically spring is a bit slow for surf in LA. But there’s usually a few sandbars left from winter, and the water is gradually warming up too. And there’s always that reassuring knowledge that summer’s just around the corner.
So you see, LA does have unique seasons. Now that that’s been established, I’m off to go find some pollution to swim in. I’m banking on some potential Cyclops powers, but hey, I’m not picky.
As you can tell by my recent Catching Air post, I have a thing for Bladerunner. Part of it has to do with the fact that El Porto (the main focus of my article) honestly reminds me quite a bit of the dystopian LA that it’s in the film—the smokestacks and the industrial flare ups look like something straight out of the first scene (well, minus the flying cop car).
Since sci-fi and surfing have consumed much of time lately, I decided to look for some literature that joined the two; unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck. However, I did come across a book called Lucifer’s Hammer. In the story, a massive comet hits the Earth, and causes earthquakes and tsunamis to pretty much destroy civilization, as we know it. Yeah, a bit of bummer, I know (isn’t that the same plot for Armageddon? Damn you, Michael Bay! Bane of my fricken existence). Anyway, in the book, there’s one particularly large tsunami heading towards So Cal, and apparently, all of the surfers (literally, all of them… not sure what traffic was like on PCH that day) paddle out and try to ride the wave. I’m pretty sure it didn’t really pan out.
Anyway, here’s a link to the wiki page about the book. I’ll try to keep my eye out for some sci-fi lit that actually does focus on surfing too. See you out in the water!
LA is unabashedly insane.
A statement like that might be deemed derogatory, but honestly, I see it as something positive. LA is complicated; it’s culture and history (yes, it has culture and history) blends the Old West, the roaring 20s and the glitz and glamour of Hollywood into a giant smorgasbord of eccentricity and excitement. Okay sure, the traffic can be a living nightmare (I’d say roughly equivalent to being forced to listen to Rebecca Black’s “Friday” while munching on a glass a bottle), but truthfully, it’s never a boring place.
The same holds true for the surf scene in LA too—it’s a vibrant, hectic and altogether chaotic scene, emblematic of all of the city’s wonderful (and terrifying) characteristics. I believe that fact wholeheartedly, and I’ve yet to encounter another surf scene like it.
Artist Damian Fulton draws his inspiration for his art from the unique nature of LA’s surf scene, and the result is something that’s truly a step above your standard “beach and pretty wave” surf painting. His art is a lovely ode to fantasy, surfing and Los Angeles; it features sci-fi themes, gun-toting monsters, knockout pin-up girls, and, my personal favorite, the omnipresent smoke stacks of El Porto. Oh, and did I mention that he has a surf painting titled “Dawn Patrol” that portrays surfers as mindless, shambling zombies? It’s like he reached into my soul and pulled out my innermost wishes and dreams….
The art is wonderful, and embodies every twisted noir aspect of LA, while also retaining a deep appreciation for surf culture—it’s fantastically brilliant stuff. I’ve posted a few of his paintings below. Hope you enjoy them!
If you haven’t picked up the latest issue of Surfer, you should—there’s a couple of really entertaining travel stories, including one on surfing in the Baltic Sea. I just picked up my copy, and honestly, I’m already planning my next cold water surf trip to Finland. Didn’t know there was surf there did ya? Actually, I didn’t really know that either… I guess today is a learning sort of day.
Surfer just posted this video concerning the story behind this issue’s cover, which features Dan Malloy ripping it up at a mysterious break in Japan. Check it out!
If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m fascinated with surfing in unusual places (like the Great Lakes). Why? Is it because I enjoy coming across as a bit unstable at holiday parties?
Take last weekend for instance, when I accompanied my girlfriend to a little soiree in Bel-Air. Yeah, that’s right, I said Bel-Air—hence the sophisticated French lingo. By the way, that’s about the extent of my French-speaking abilities. I know, it’s pretty sad… Carlton Banks would surely have been disappointed.
Anyway, Fresh Prince aside (I had the theme song stuck in my head the whole time), when my girlfriend and I first arrived at the holiday party we were introduced to the host, Mr. X. Actually, for all intents and purposes, let’s just call him Racer X. Got to let my nerd flag fly on this one.
Racer X was very welcoming, and he made us feel right at home. He conversed a bit with us, mostly small talk: So, what do you both do for a living? I’m sorry, what did you say? No, you can’t take my entire wine collection home with you. What? No, I’ve never met Judge Carl Robertson—he’s a fictional character. By the way, are you drunk?
OK, none of that actually happened, but secretly I really did want to know if he’d ever seen them filming the TV show in the neighborhood. After a bit of small talk, he asked me about my latest writing project.
Me: My latest project? Well, I actually went to Cleveland to surf on Lake Erie. It’s been a real big deal for me. My article is going to be about the Ohio—
Racer X: Excuse me… did you say something about surfing in Ohio?
Me: Um… yes, yes I did.
Racer X: Oh… very interesting. (Turns to my girlfriend) So, how do you like the pasta? It’s great, huh?
Racer X, who we’ll now refer to as the Red Baron (you’ll see why), shot me down pretty hard. (See what I did?) OK, I get it; going on a surf trip to Ohio is a little unusual. Nevertheless, I actually had some logic behind going on that trip. Surfing, as a sport and cultural movement, is synonymous with locales like California and Hawaii. If you go to either state, you’re expected to find surfers. Generally speaking, if you go to Ohio, you’re not expecting to find any surfers. Why? BECAUSE YOUR 500 MILES AWAY FROM THE NEAREST OCEAN.
Ah, but there in lies the overall point of my trip. For you see, there are surfers in Ohio. They exist in a place that is counterintuitive to everything that is associated with surfing: the American Midwest. No palm trees, no Pipeline, no bikini babes—just surfers carrying on their own special brand of surfing on an enormous (and sometimes smelly) lake. They are a unique cultural movement, and truly fascinating in their own right. That’s why I took a surf trip to the Midwest—I wanted to see, firsthand, what it was like to be a surfer in Ohio.
Anyway, I don’t hold any personal grudges against Mr. X/Racer X/The Red Baron (mainly because he let me into his very nice Bel-Air home for a swanky holiday party), because conversing with him reminded me why I took that surf trip in the first place.
So with that, I’d like to thank that masked host for a particularly lovely evening. I bid thee adieu, or as the Fresh Prince himself would say:
“Yo homes smell ya later.”
When was the last time you had a night surf session?
My first—and, for the time being, my last—night session was at El Porto during my freshman year of college. I paddled out right after class in the late afternoon, and I will still out in the water when the sun was going down. Now, because I was a naïve freshman, striving to prove my abilities as a manly surfer, I decided to stay out well after sunset. The surf was only about shoulder-high and there was light from the nearby power plant, so I figured it wouldn’t be too rough. Contrary to my well thought out plan, it turned out to be a very bad idea.
I forgot (which, in retrospect, was quite an oversight) that I have poor night vision. Like really, really bad. As in, if a cop pulls me over at night and I’m not wearing my wearing my contacts or glasses, I’m in big trouble (i.e. spending a night with “Bendover” down at the local LADP jail). And, of course, I didn’t have my glasses or contacts. As you can tell, I’m not really one for planning ahead. After several painful wipeouts, I paddled back in.
Dark and stormy night: 1
Anyway, check out this night surf vid. I don’t remember the stars looking like that when I paddled out, but then again, I was nearly blind and I was surfing next to a power plant. So, I guess that kind of explains that. Enjoy!
Tony! Toni! Toné you’re gravely mistaken—it does rain in Southern California. Fricken liars. Okay, so Albert Hammond and his crew of Limeys are a little before my time, but I have memories of my parents playing that album quite a bit. Like it or not, I know that damn song pretty well. So… here’s where I let out a heavy, exasperated sigh, and look out the window at the steady, cold rain that’s ruining my chances for a sunny surf session tomorrow. Damn you Tony! Toni! Toné, it’s all your fault.
Anywho, being that the surf is a bit on the rained out side, I’ve decided to keep up with my current affinity for skate videos. I’m not quite sure how these boys pulled off the “pool skating” in the following video, but it’s as entertaining as watching a grizzly bear playing hockey (which, by the way, is something people actually do in Russia). Enjoy the vid!
Every surfer pines for the quintessential tropical barrel.
It is, of course, absolutely flawless, powerful, and unnervingly gorgeous. It also boasts enough standing room to accommodate AC/DC’s tour bus (and an entire troupe of cheering REEF girls). Oh, just the thought of riding one of those tropical beauties is enough to make me sell all of my earthly possessions and take up permanent residence on the North Shore (I was taking about the barrels, by the way).
Then, reality sets in once I start going over the logistics:
“Wait a tick… how the hell would I make a living in Hawaii? Maybe I could be a fisherman… oh, wait, I’ve never fished before in my life. Well, maybe I could work for Dog the Bounty Hunter. Hmm… I’m not a big fan of the dress code—or bear mace for that matter. Regardless, I can find those sorts of epic barrels anywhere… especially here in CA. I’ll just pull up the ol’ Internet and do a bit of homework. Oh, check this out! You can get barreled at The Wedge! That looks like a fun spot. Wow, look at this video. Awesome! That looks like so much fun; I think I’m going to head down there and—OH MY GOD THAT MAN WAS JUST EVISCERATED BY HIS OWN BOARD!!!! HOW CAN SOMEONE BLEED THAT MUCH?!?!? WHY WOULD SOMEONE FILM THIS?!?!?! OH PLEASE, MAKE IT STOP!!!! (sounds of vomiting and crying can be heard off screen).”
With all that said, for the time being, I’ll leave the epic barrels to the pros. In particular, pros like Alex Grey, who just won Surfer Poll’s “Best Barrel of 2011.”
No surfers were harmed in the making of this video. Enjoy!
Not all preconceptions about the French are true. Sure, they have a propensity for avoiding deodorant, wearing berets and scoffing at folks who smile too much, but there’s one thing I know for certain: there’s great surf in France. Henceforth, there’s some great surfers in France too.
Anyway, check out this new vid. Margaux Arramon-tucoo, native of Biarritz, France, was riding a log down at San Onofre, and Hayley Gordon was there to record the old-school session.