Thursday, October 8, 2015

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Alright. The App.

Gid Obarzanek is a pretty singular personality. One of Australia's great choreographer/dancer/dance company honchos, he is also a fine and stoked surfer. I surfed Bells with him a number of months ago, then met up with him in Brooklyn a few months after that.

A couple weeks ago he sent through this text for which I am eternally grateful.
Get involved & click on the pic for instant reassurance.

Ghosts Of October

Of all the surfable days of the last couple weeks, I've only surfed three of them. But they were three happy, happy days each one with its own character and mood. The first, last Wednesday, fun and loopy. A goofball fest. The second, Monday morning, a heavier grey with hints of surprising. The third, this morning, almost didn't happen but turned out bigger and more lined up than I'd imagined, offering a couple enjoyable, brain fluid giggling massage moments along with a few very lined up zoomers. All on my beloved big pink softtop of doom. Two of them in the company of the lovely Ty Breuer, who makes every session a super session.

A little look at the action from Thomas Brookins.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Happening: Stephanie in the Water: Tomorrow Night

Stephanie in the Water is showing at The National Arts Club Tuesday Oct 6th at 8pm. This event is free and open to the public with RSVP to

We approve of this film.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Problem With Surfing Is How Much Anger It Inspires

This morning's unused equipment, an abstract mirror of inner anguish.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Winning and Losing and the Cliche of Our Greatest Strength

It was fun this morning. Typically, unexplainably fun. But I'll try to explain. The image above is yours truly in a moment of enough generated speed to actually turn the big pink soft battleship off the top of a rogue righty. As is my inimitable style (nevertheless copied by kooky beginners and eight year old groms the world over) I spy a set on the outside and opt for the safety sliding over the top, trying to beat out the lip. Which I did, until I lost the grip on my board and that second waves drove it far to the inside. You can imagine the self-flagellation on the swim in. Luckily one moment among many, each more goofball than the next. But if the object is fun, and having fun has within its parameters whinging around an unwieldy pink softball bat of a surfboard in punchy Long Island surf, I came out a winner this morning.

Photo cred: Domick Volini

Paipopolis 2015

Sunday October 4 at Rockaway Beach @ 97th. "Bring your paipos, surfmats, handplanes and whatever else you care to share." Facebook event page...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Horizon of Green, Blue, Red

I sit and rehearse my line: "Té con hielo como ella," and I nod my head or point my finger (I leave it to the moment of inspiration to decide) to the woman seated directly in front of me who has just ordered an iced tea. Meanwhile the British couple to my left, sitting in mirrored aisle seats furiously discuss what she will order him over the drink cart, her head popping up, a blonde cherubic whackamole, his weighty sullenness annoyed by the exertion. He wants her to order him an Estrella, pronouncing it with no hint of an ultimate "yuh." The flight attendant is typical of the Spaniard women I've seen in the last 24 hours. Something about the eyes and chin and front teeth perfectly formed by the gentle erosion of life long lisping.

I am a slave to Spanish beauty. In no city have been do I find myself so full of astonishment as Barcelona. The woman washing the street late at night. Do they know they've hired such a gorgeous woman to schlep around a hose dressed in bulky overalls at midnight? Our waitress at dinner. Does she know she looks like a movie star? I follow three women for a couple blocks each, just staring, trying to sort out if they are real.

There are many places for a middle aged white man to feel the full shame of his splotched and flaking pinkness, sloppily thrust forward in a mottled and piecemeal hair suit. For me, most of these places come amidst tropicality and the seal-like grace of sleek almondine bodies. In Barcelona I feel a different lack of measurement: a lack of suaveness, more cultural than physical deficit.

These thoughts tilt my head down for a moment, averting the possibility that the stewardess would read my esteem. While I gather them close, and practice my delivery, I am caught by anticipation, the cart slipping down two rows beyond me, leaving me thirsty and bereft of the script I need to set it right.

I have been in Europe for a week, filming soccer in Amsterdam and visiting friends in Barcelona and London. One can wear a New York badge in Europe that offers entre to conversations one might be sniffed out of hailing from a more quaint U.S. address. There is a respect for New York that perhaps goes beyond its due. Reading this essay in T Magazine by Edmund White I think about how shallow my own generation's aspiration surely is. Laughing at this mess, I shake my head at the realization that my brain plays multiple perverse roles in an ongoing internal tragicomedy.

Granted, when we showed up on the scene we had no idea what the scene was. We only knew we were in New York, on a grimy and dangerous street with an exposed brick wall in our apartment. We only knew we had to pay our month to month rent and find the jobs and plug into the system we'd come here for. And that, maybe, is the downfall. The system was here. We didn't make it, pave it, define it. We stumbled into it and sunk our teeth right in when we knew it was ripe. And it was ripe at the time, full of the necessarily fading but still eerily incandescent lights of those who'd come before.

I will always be grateful for the chance to rub elbows and look into the eyes of these apparitional inspirations. They are leaving by nature and nurture, heading off to the grave or away from it, depending on your point of view.

And we are left behind to scratch our heads and ask "what do I do next?" At least I can still wear my badge.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Was it 2001? 2002? When did we hatch our plan to make a movie about your life? We were pretty excited. We probably came up with the idea, or you probably planted the seed in my head, sitting at the back table at Beige. And when did I flake out? 2003? I didn't have the tools or the know-how. I have them today. And I wish we could make that film together. Respect.

The Life of Punk Queen Edwige Belmore and the Death of the Old Downtown

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sand Did Spit

Don't ever let me catch you letting me tell you I surfed Sand Spit when I lived in Santa Barbara. I didn't. I didn't feel like it was my place and that place rarely breaks. At least it rarely broke when I lived there. At least that is my official line. I did surf right off the pier some amazing, improbable number of times thanks to some crazy magical sandbar instilling flooding. The above clip is rad, but there are a couple boogiegoard rides prematurely edited out I would not have minded watching to fruition. Tiny pit central.

"Can Surfing Reprogram the Veteran’s Brain?"

I've been wondering a lot about this lately. Having felt the utter emotional confusion that sets in when I'm not in the water for extended periods of time, and having my resilience at moments like those eroded by what I assume is the body's natural flagging due to age, I've been wondering just how medically beneficial, truly scientifically physically gaugeable surfing might be for mental. I read about the autistic kids who get sorted by going surfing and of course I have my own experience of brain-wave massaging and post-surf bliss that seems to make my life better. It struck me the other day in a conversation with a friend that that "wavelength massage" might sort out any number of traumas.

Click le pic.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Tyranny of Self-Flushing Toilets

The stretch of sand below the piedmont that is Torrance swings north along the Esplenade to Redondo Beach. Just over the southern hill is PV Cove with its fearsome crew of Bay Boys who guard their wave-filled fiefdom with aggression. Or so they say. I've never tried to surf it. That hill, the Palos Verdes one, dripping jewels of houses over-looking the Southern Los Angeles sea, is equally ostracizing in its pomposity. By contrast the Torrance beach feels meek in understated apology and further up the industrial looking Redondo looks undeservedly rough and tumble.

I like to say that Ian taught me how to surf. I tell that to people. To his friend whom he introduces me the night before our our paddle out, and to my colleagues when I needlessly tell them the backstory of the old buddy I'm going to visit. I don't know why I like to say it. Ian overhears that explanation to his friend and grimaces, truthfully explaining that he did not teach me how to surf. It's truthful because it's true. I'd already been struggling with a board for a few years before becoming regular surf mates with Ian in the early 90s. I could already paddle out, catch a wave and head down the line. I could already get pummeled and kook out. I was already making more time for surfing that I was for my class load. And I truthfully corrected Ian in return. Because Ian taught me how to surf. He taught me to relax and to look relaxed and to try and match his laconic precision. It would set the tone for what I subsequently and still find pleasing in style. As I think about it, I'm not sure anyone else would take such inspiration from Ian on a surfboard. I'm not sure if my esteem is purely a hangover from some youthful drink of the different, or whether his surfing has some objective pedigree of cool. But I am still inspired by his surfing now, which is funny given the parameters he's placed on it.

I'm staying at a Hyatt in Long Beach for a couple days working on an advertising project about soccer players. I hadn't even thought about getting in touch with Ian before halfway through my plane ride, the realization of his possible proximity dawning on me only when I check a map to see where the video shoot would be. Right there, on the other side of those forbidding Palos Verdes bluffs sits Torrance. And if there is one thing about Ian, it's that he's from Torrance.

There is this absurd moment of confusion that overcomes me when traveling through suburbia. I've heard other people mention the same thing: "What do people do here?" It's this standard question that comes from somewhere deep in the psyche that still hasn't wrapped a brain around the idea of paper money, of service economy, of packaged foods and 24 hour telephone support. It's like a lizard brain if it were a Belle Epoque bailiff lizard dressed up in a cravat and bowler or an industrial boom Scouse lizard with a soot covered face trudging home from some factory. It's that lizard brain captured in the American Gothic painting. What people do here is beyond that part of me. Go to work? What work?

The answer comes a day later when I am interviewing one of the soccer players who shows up for the project I'm working on. A skinny good looking Latino kid with a big scripty tattoo running down his right forearm, he's got a dozen incredible moves on the ball he can pull off in humbling succession. As a way to loosen him up for the interview I asked him what he had for breakfast (nothing) and then if he had a eaten anything that morning (a snack at nine consisting of a Monster energy drink.) "Not even a cup of coffee when you get up?" "Coffee makes me go to sleep." He had been up since before dawn in a warehouse on an assembly line, checking to make sure the contents of a box were correct before pushing it down the rollers. Five days a week then five to six nights filled with a kind of soccer that has taken over unused tennis courts that dot the south coast.

Whom one chooses as a hero is not a choice at all. The little hagiographers between our ears are slaves to predestination like all the others bits of us and Ian loves to surf sofftops. Which makes perfect sense. He still takes out one of his multiple longboards that litter his chicken infested backyard if the waves are perfect. "Do you still ride shortboards?" I glance at a beautifully dusty little blue fish poking out from under his daughter's massive trampoline. "Oh no, if it's big I'll take out the Costco softtop. You can catch everything on those." God, it makes so much sense.

I'm tickled and frustrated by other's meaning of the word "flat." The night before our morning surf, I drop by Ian's house just as he's finishing up burger night with some friends. Last to go or left behind is his old friend Craig, a former surfboard, and more recently, paddleboard shaper turned full-time house renovator. Solely his own house. We talk about the chances for waves in the morning. Craig makes the "pfffttt" noise and shakes his head. "You guys out to SUP over the to the cove!"

Ian tells me he rarely stands up anymore when he surfs. Thanks to some seriously dodgy knees, he is content to ride waves in on his belly or to body surf. The waves are indeed minuscule looking. We pull up along the Esplenade at about 7 AM, a little group of high schoolers already in the water down the beach attending their first class of the day. "Did you have surf class when you were in high school?" "Ha, no."

The water is bizarrely warm. Even Ian thinks so. He keeps mentioning how warm it is all the way to the sand, not getting colder the deeper our legs dangle as we are accustomed to. And it's crystal clear in that crystal clear way that's a touch unnerving. At one point a very large dark object glides fairly close by at a blurry pace. We are both relieved to see a mammoth seal pop its head up twenty yards south. The waves are maybe belly high, more like upper mid thigh, and just shapely enough where we are surfing out in front of the volleyball poles to gift us a bagfull of super fun little rides. Fun enough that I feel compelled to hoot a little as I catch some. Ian surfs mostly on his belly, but deigns to stand up on a couple choice lefts on his favored goofyfoot. "I've gotten more incredible barrels surfing on my belly than I ever did standing up." I have to believe him. I try a couple on my belly, but my knees work ok enough and I am still caught with a childlike exuberance to squat down and drag my hand across a tiny face, speeding down the short line pretending I'm a Shaun Tomson Gulliver happening upon a Lilliputian Backdoor.

I say out loud more than once (and a few more times internally) that I could "do this all day." Ian just nods. His surfing is just like his conversation: matter of fact, eschewing hyperbole to the point that one might think the neighborhood in his brain that would produce even the most slightly exaggerated statements was firebombed when he was a kid.

Craig mentioned he might join us for a paddle but doesn't show. I ask Ian if Craig would think this is too flat to surf. "No, he'd be having fun." I ask Ian how this little stretch works everyday, if he he can stroll down the hill and get this sort of thing in the morning whenever he wants. "This is about as flat as it gets."

After two days of shooting young Latino style masters, I find myself at LAX with a case of slight back spasms and a stuffy nose. Pet peeves are around every corner in airports. People moving too slow. People hurrying too fast. The absolute crap food and the uncomfortable chairs. The fact that they no longer display the Economist in that easy-to-find spot next to the cash register at Hudson News. I actually enjoy taking my shoes off at the security gate. But what really gets me is the automatic flushing toilets. You think you've set yourself up just right, covering every bit of plastic porcelain, saving your precious skin from indignity, and as soon as it's all just perfect "gwashhshshs fllfffshshshshshshs!" all your best laid plans sucked down the hole.

Thursday, September 10, 2015