Sunday, December 13, 2009


Eyes like children stretch out to spin
a whirl in an open green place.
Gravity draws strong and they tumble
down and then down, suddenly.
Open and green again
they whirl like children.

-Padante Namimbu Bakura

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Via Stevie Lis...

Beachbreak fishy. Pulled in tail, curvy outline, and higher aspect ratio Geppies. I'm looking forward to getting to know this one.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Kendog- one of the other mat-maestros I watch with a students' eye.

Nine days, no work. Nine days, time for surfing. My wife, sick with a little growing grom in her tummy, had the grace to allow me to feed my addiction. Alarm buzzes at 5:30. Out the door I go, boards packed, visions of cylindrical sublimity in my mind.

Each session was a lesson. Got donuts on an early barrel on Sunday and ended up with a nice shimmery patch in my vision, courtesy of a partially separated retina. Frontside cutbacks felt a bit stiff. Maybe that's because I don't know how to bend my knees. I'll have to work on that.

My last session I met with T. Inflate. He is my mat-riding hero. He is stylish and understated with a real stoke for the ocean. We hit a fantastic wave early and caught some head high bombers on the mats. I must say, I was quite rusty (first mat session in a couple months) but had a ball on the magic towel. My first wave, my fin got blown off. A few waves later, I am on a bucking bronco contorting under me as I try to control the mat. Then I remember- you don't control or steer the mat- you feel the mat and let it do it's frictionless glide uninhibited by your feeble mortal attempts at control. You see, the mat is a divine living entity. It will not be mastered. You must convince it that you care for it, then it will allow you to enjoy its company for a session or two. Once bravado and ego emerge, it will turn on you and humble you, usually in front of your friends on a perfect wave.

I'm working on holding a high line on the steepest of faces in order to use the unbelievable speed of the mat to its full extent. I found myself just behind the section on many of the steep runners I encountered. So easy to enjoy, so hard to master...

New Lis due this week!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My favorite surf shop, reinvented...

Pacific Beach Surf Shop is proud to announce the opening of the Action Sports Environmental Coalition GREENROOM within the shop. The shop undergoing a remodel that will include an organic and sustainable clothing section, a stage to host LIVE music, film and speaking events and a new surfboard gallery to showcase San Diego's best and most creative shapers.
PB surfshop's Grand Reopening PARTY!!!!
Pacific Beach Surf Shop has embraced the environmental and sustainable movement by highlighting such brands as eVocal, Ando & Friends, Livity, Hippy Tree, IPath and more! All these brands use only Organic cottons or hemp and are part of a growing trend of young socially conscious companies that promote surf art and a life style with an eye on the environment. As San Diego's oldest surf shop it only seems right that P.B. Surf Shop would be the 1st surf shop to embrace the green movement in the area.

Party Start's November 21st 2009
6:00pm - 11:00pm

This party will be the start of a new experience for you at the shop as we move forward as our goal to be the
"community surf shop" that will bring a wide range of events to the surf and beach community. For more information on the event please call us at (858)373-1138.

Our Address is:

4150 Mission Blvd. #161 San Diego Ca 92109

Live Music & Art Exhibit
Live Music by: Human Lab , and other surprise guests...

Live Art by: Jesse Miller, Theo Hetherington & other eVocal artists....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


DT a surfer who shapes. He won "board of the show" or some such award at Sacred Craft. Photo Marsek

"You can only become a Jedi when you can craft your own light saber."

-RK as quoted by Daniel Thomson. We had a chuckle about this line, but how true it is...

I spent some time talking with Daniel "Tomo" Thomson at his short-term surfdorm residence in deepest, darkest North County San Diego. His is a fantastically hydra-headed story. Part Greenough neophyte, part fish-renaissance inspiration, part shredding bro/brah, part visionary shaper of the moment. Undeniably, he is a surfer. The most refreshing piece of our conversation was his view of himself not as a shaper but as a fully involved surfer. He just loves surfing so much that he wants to understand and explore all it's facets. He shapes because he surfs. He shapes because it gives him entrance into realms of new capabilities.

I have a friend who is an average surfer, much like myself. He got the bug to shape his own fishy and set to work in my "shaping bay" (bwahaha). The boards he made are not the prettiest, but they're his. Note to all: shape your own board, at least once. It will at least give you an appreciation for the undeniable skill of the shapers who put boards under our feet. Maybe, just maybe, it will fulfill the part of you that Tomo speaks about, the part that is in search of a complete involvement with surfing in its nebulous, beautiful forms.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Peter Pan-ic...

GG (April, 2006), someday you'll think these same thoughts:

Today, a glorious Sin Diego fall day, I walked up Cowles Mountain (hill) with my three-year-old son. I didn't surf and haven't surfed in the last week, despite the swell. My wife is pregnant and quite ill. I've been on daddy and domestic duty. Delightful and delightful.

Sometime about half way through our walk I surveyed east San Diego and the near suburb of La Mesa, I saw the lake that I run around, pushing a stroller or laboring through predawn miles so I don't miss out on family or surf time later in the day/week. I saw the highways, everywhere highways, that I travel daily for sixty miles. I saw the little canyon that leads to my house from the lake. I saw the hazy western horizon and knew the sea, and decent surf, lay beyond, me missing it. I reflected on my current life. 31 years old, 8 years building a beautiful family with my wife, 9 years in a career I love. I do things I like all the time. I surf, I get outdoors, I create.

Then came the panic. In the midst of my comfortable, rewarding, suburban, middle-class, generally very happy life came a moment of Peter Panic. Is there enough time in this life to do all the things I dream? Do I have the courage to step off the well worn path at opportune times in order to expand my vision? What sacrifices must be made to stretch beyond the routine, regardless of how comfortable that routine may be, in order to encounter new and enriching experiences? How much time do I have on this earth? How is that time best spent?

My Father is a man of exceeding spiritual faith. I find this endearing and vexing. I wish the easy answers of faith came to me without drag-out battles of the mind that leave me with only meager satisfaction. Then I might be able to answer those most weighty of questions.

For now, in this moment, I will rest in the beauty of my life and try to follow the wise, petulant advise of Peter Pan, "Think of a wonderful thing, it's the same as having wings!" Then I can fly. But to where? And for to what end?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

in correspondence...

I was into kneeboarding then and this was the last stand-up board I made for myself. It's inspired by what Bunker Spreckles was riding at the time. The thickest point was the tail over the fin. Hard sharp rails all the way around. Shaped-in foot well. I remember riding it at the big jetty, but I think it's one I threw away in the end.

Hi Andy,

It's Sunday morning here in Henderson, Nevada, and I'm hanging out,
drinking coffee and catching up on some reading I wanted to do. I
finally read your interview with Josh Hall.

Really a wonderful, thoughtful piece. The "why" you are exploring
("The emergence of young hand shapers around the world begs the
question, “why?” ") is really a profound question, not easily
explained, and speaks of something in the soul of a small minority of
human beings. This "something" manifests in small segments of almost
all of man's endeavors, such as (just to name a few I've been
involved in) building surfboards and boats and airplanes, making
pictures (photography, drawing, painting), books (hand-made and
manufactured). This "something" is the need--NEED--to make stuff with
our hands according to some inner vision. Only a small minority of
people have this need, so there are only a few people making hand-
shaped surfboards, wooden boats, ultralight aircraft, art
photography, personal drawings and paintings, hand-made books and
books manufactured with the finest materials, typography and design.

This need, of course, has always existed, (why else would our
prehistoric ancestors make cooking vessels beautiful when a simple
functional clay pot would do just as well, and could be produced
faster and cheaper.) There are not many people who appreciate, and
will pay more for, these hand-made treasures. So those who NEED to
make these objects have always had difficulty supporting themselves
by selling these things.

So why make 'em? These artists and craftsmen just have to. In the
interview, Josh touches on all this stuff, except his NEED to make
hand-shaped surfboards. I bet he really doesn't have a choice. He
didn't decide between shaping by hand or with the aid of computers
and machines. He had to decide between shaping his way or going into
some other line of work.

All this thinking has sent me back to 1969 in Ocean Beach. Hey, I
think there's a story to tell before all of us who were there are
gone. That period is the beginning of the "backyard" shortboard
designer/builder phenomena and the end of the surfboard factory
domination. It was a time when anyone could, and did, shape a
surfboard, glass it and go out and ride it.

Don't have much money? Fine, make your surfboards yourself. Never
shaped a board before? No problem. Rent or borrow some tools. Don't
have a garage? So, hang some sheets up in your backyard and start
shaving on your blank (and there's always the kitchen to use for
glassing--not a room that gets much use anyway). Don't know how to
get started? Easy, cut your old longboard in half or drive up to
Mitch's Surf Shop in La Jolla and Mitch would sell you everything you
needed for very little money (did Mitch ever go home?). Want to go
into business doing this? Don't need no stinkin' business license,
surf shop or factory; just find an unused garage to rent and promote
your boards word-of-mouth out in the water.

The cool thing then was, we were at the beginning of the shortboard
era, and we were all just groping and feeling our way into it. There
was no past to refer to, only the future to discover. In San Diego,
an inexperienced shaper was totally accepted. There was so much
experimentation going on with board design, it didn't matter if you
didn't know what you were doing, and who could tell from the finished
board anyway? What mattered was that a shaped board was pleasing to
the eye--looked hydrodynamic--and was something new. If the board
sort of worked, you could go on from there with your next board. If
it didn't work, just throw it away. Great times, they were!

Cher and I have pictures and Super 8 footage of all this (I'm going
to copy her this e-mail). She has some of these old photos posted on

I enjoy reading your blog. Keep it up.


Friday, October 9, 2009

On wings...

Above: Andrew Kidman via F&F

September a whirl. Tasks, smiles, files of information all leading to summative success. The small faces pass by. Hundreds now. The small interactions, thousands, pass by. Yet as they pass they leave a trace of themselves. Wisps of personality; struggle and joyful accomplishment. I do not suffer from "alienation of labor."

However, I've surfed about ten times in the last two months.

Thankfully images of waves and boards, smiling surfers and the pendulum of the tides stay traced on my psyche. Tomorrow, the waves. Tomorrow, not a respite from work, but a companion piece to my working life.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


A little clarification was shared via Sin Diego surf matriarch and artist divine, Cher Pendarvis. Educate the educator...

Hey Andrew, hope that you are enjoying a nice weekend! I enjoyed your post about the Larmo stories and the fish on Born to Lose.

Actually RK first rode Mikko's fish in 2003, and got stoked and inspired by the fun little board!
The fish resurgence started earlier (as confirmed by Hanky Warner) when his friend Derek Hynd came to San Diego (1995-1996) and visited with Skip and Hanky when they had Harry's Surf Shop in PB. As Hanky remembers, Derek was looking through Skip's quiver and discovered a small old keel fin fish that Skip had in a bag, and asked what it was. Derek was stoked to have a fish, so Skip shaped him one. The next year, Derek came back and asked for Skip to shape him another one, with a slightly narrower tail. Derek ended up taking it to J-Bay and rode it there. Tom Curren rode Derek's fishes as well, at J-Bay, and inspired folks with his amazing surfing. Some of their rides were filmed by Andrew Kidman and can be seen in his movie, Litmus.

Aside from this story, some of us never stopped riding fish, and have kept them in our quiver since the early fish days. FYI: the fish is my favorite design of all time!
I'm stoked that Hanky helped clarify some of the dates as to when Derek first saw Skip's fish. We look forward to talking with you, soon!

Aloha, Cher
Is there a more consequential modern surf film than Litmus? Not to me.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fall fishing...

Above, a new creation in a classic mold by a new creator in a classic mold. Josh Oldenburg shape. GTall photos

The face of surfing and shaping evolves through the generations. Name them. Each area contains a history lesson unto itself which at one point was the spear's point plunging forward in the name of progression. Remarkably similar, how the spiral of design and performance strikes the same chords throughout time. We all, young and old, seek the simple and nuanced thrill of wide open surfable mind-fields. We all, skilled and novice, revel in the unknown moments that await us after that first thrill. He'e Nalu. Time moves, people glow and fade away, waves pass ever onward.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Art of Shaping entry from Steve Lis. I haev such a soft spot for classic Sin Diego fish. Photo: Cher Pendarvis

I tolerated the vapid ASR drones bumping their be-stickered freebie bags into each other as I walked to Billabong's Art of Shaping event. Something to look forward to. A cool idea. A potential for acknowledging the core of what makes surfing special- authenticity, originality, craftsmanship, regionalism, characters of all types.

I arrived late, checked a few boards then sat next to EpicAker and watched the festivities. The highlights were the remarkable boards at hand. The woodwork by Mitzven, R., Christenson, Toby- jawdropping. The handiwork by Hanky, Bahne, Pendo, Lis, Larmo, Peter St. Pierre, Sam Cody- phenomenal. The crowned king, an unbelievable glue up with matching fin from The Genius, went for lots o'cash to R.

Some nice words and actions were made from the podium to honor craftsmen in the trade. Some guys now have their boards stocked in some shops. An ad about supporting your local shaper/glasser is going to come out in Surfing Mag.

Problem- every moneyed entity involved- publications, shops, even the event sponsor and presenter- swell their bottom line with vacuous product sold at the expense of the real craftsmen. The popouts and overseas market destroyers will still outnumber Hank Warner boards at local Megaxtreme Store 1,2, and 3. What would happen if suddenly the real craftsmen were asked to make all the entry level boards for a fair price in place of all the popouts? Would Megaxtreme go out of business? No, they'd just sell boards of higher quality and support the men and women who make our surfboards great.

Billabong, thanks for gathering great boards, shapers, and enthusiasts together for a nice event to raise money. Perhaps The Art of Shaping will begin a reawakening among consumers, media, manufacturers, and retailers that reproducible flotsam is out and craftsmanship, functionality, and uniqueness is what makes surfing special and what is ultimately the most valuable basis on which to market our beloved diversion.

I used to be a sales rep in "action sports". It's much better being a participant/critic in surfing.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


I'm not a collector, I'm a surfer.

In the last week I've sold a lot of boards. I reached a point where my boards were ruling me rather than serving me. When you start dreaming about boards rather than waves you have an illness. Sold a 6'9 frye, 6' frye, 10'2 frye, 6'8 lis, 6'4 tony staples.

I'm trying to refine my quiver. Above is a keeper. 5'8".

Still available: 1976 Lis fish in amazing condition. Roper said it was 9 out of 10 in terms of historic value. Pricey (3k).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Refer to original...

Photo pilfered from G&S

I spent part of this morning speaking with Larmo. He was kind enough to shed some light on a few topics in San Diego surfing and board design history. He's fifty now and grew up surfing the same zone I did. He reflected on his early shaping and glassing jobs, his continued excitement about surfing and design, and some seminal moments in San Diego surfing history. Some gems:

-Skip, literally without a home, shaping behind Select Surf in P.B., surfing continuously while his contemporaries had long since quit shaping and surfing.

-Larry, driving Skip and Donna north to a legends contest at Surfrider Beach where Skip displays his never-fading prowess and reasserts himself as a premier shaper and surfer in Southern California, emerging from his "dark days".

-RK, surfing a local pseudo-point on a Slater-Slipper type shortboard during decent swell (late nineties?), breaks a fin and trades with MFleming, who is riding a 5'5 fishy. RK rips and rediscovers the classic design. At home after the surf, RK records his thoughts on paper, soon thereafter KG fishies are shredded up and down baja and, for better or worse, the fish resurgence moves past the ranks of the truly tuned-in and Litmus-inspired and is brought to the attention of the greater surfing populace.

-Clark foam plugs designed by Rawson, now reside above a shaping room in coastal San Diego.

-There will now be 12' blanks available designed by Larmo and Skip. Glide.

I recommend you read this article on Drift.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

In other worlds...

Photo: Web Foundling

There are small cracks in sidewalks
Seeds fall in and reach
Around other seeds in search
Of what will inspire germination.
The feet above scatter busy days

Above the heads of small flowers
Now questioning
What will inspire germination

- Padante Namimbu Bakura

Summer draws it's curtains with a fine show of sun and swell. My adored wife and son fly away to visit the in-laws. I begin my work year in two days.

Tonight, I drop off my two beloveds at Lindy Field and they flap off into the sunset. I jag the car to the coast. A beautiful sunset and glassy, waist high waves greet me. "Hmmm, I guess thirty minutes of surf is better than anything else I might do." Mat, fins, down the cliff, into salty reflecting pond. I spin and slide a wave and then another. The sun slips away. One surfer paddles in and then another. At last it is just me, alone, in the dark.

Surfing by sensation is a treat. Although I began to feel like bait after about a half-hour, I did enjoy some solitude and that rare feeling of being inspired for all the right reasons. No one could see me. No one knew I was there below the cliff on which they stood. It was me and ocean in our own slow dance, no one else on the dance floor to impress.

A beautiful counterpoint to life in general.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fragile moments...

At one North County break a surfer called Skip a kook and told him, "When I tell you to kick out, you kick out!". The worst part, nobody clued the offending surfer in. (photo BA)

The final fling before I'm back to the 7-3:30. Three morning sessions in a row lead me to North County locations that I seldom frequent. These are waves that people talk about with a smile but never in serious tones. Inconsequential waves of summer south swell fun. The fishies and mat had a minor feast.

But really, every time I visit North County San Diego I am profoundly aware that the quality of the waves are not matched by the general quality of the surfers. Two of the sessions I surfed this week ranked in my list of top three kookiest lineups ever (you mean you don't keep a list?). I've encountered more SUP misbehavior, more lineup lunacy, and more bizarre surfing in North County than I imagined possible. North County surfers of quality, will you please do more to keep your lineups and surfers accountable. Thanks.

You have to understand, I surf a Drive Through break about fifty percent of my sessions. I deal with kooky lineups all the time. But North County, you've got to get your act together. I'll be checking in on your progress during the school year. Thanks.

Nice waves, handle with care.

I've been stung four times by bees as I've walked the beach this summer. Karma?
I broke the box and fin out of my favorite JHall fishy for the second time this year while pulling into little beachy barrels this morning. Karma?
Shuffle your feet, ASmith. Shuffle your feet.

Yes, I'll name the spots. Poops, Crowdiff, and Qualcomm Reef/Beachy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mas Despacio, por favor...

Jim Phillips' work. You can bet this took a minute or two. Photo via Web Foundling

"clean up the deck and get rid of anything that is wrong, skin the bottom to thickness, thin and rocker nose and tail, add vee's and or concaves. If the shape is NOT a full template stocker, draw out nose and tail and middle dimensions and template, cut out with power saw or hand saw, true up the planshape. Now true up the bottom, making sure the 2 sides are even and symetrical, give the bottom a light sand to get rid of any planer chatter, go back and look the deck over. Flip blank, cut bottom bands, fair in bottom bands with additional planer fine cuts, check for accuracy if you have NOT stabbed yourself in the eye with a pencil first. Flip blank over, band deck rails, fine bands to finish up, check for accuracy again, Sand flats out to rails top and bottom, sand over edges to end of final planer cuts top and bottom, tune up rails for the rough screening. Fine sand top and bottom flats, finish sand rails, give it a final drag of fine screen.

It damn near took me 40 minutes to type it all in proper sequence.

It takes as long as it takes to do it right, not a minute sooner.

A job worth doing is worth doing right No one has time to do it right, but has time to do it over The faster I go the behinder I get Would you buy a board from me if I took a little over a half hour ? Fast is not the same as good More is not better"

-Jim "The Genius" Phillips

Last night I sat on the beach with my son. My wife was out surfing. GG is jumping over holes, a little spiderman. "Daddy, how did spiderman get his powers?" Amermaid comes in, I grab the board to go out for a splash. "Daddy, I want to surf with you." Stop. Warm feeling toes to nose. "Okay, come on." Three years old, 34 pounds, on the deck of a 9'o. I walk him out, past the shorebreak and motorboat him over the oncoming microsurf. He does little push ups to get over the waves- a longboarder in the making? For minutes we are just floating on the outside. Then, moments later we are sliding towards the beach together. A first to equal to any monumental kid first; first step, word, haircut, bath. Anything.

Today, on the boogie, we try for a few from aways out. GG slides towards the shore and has that wonderful wipeout on the sand. He is shaken. We get on the horse again and take another, just to show fear that we are not mastered. Then, fun without expectation. "No more boogie waves right now, okay?" Sure GG. Take it slow. Enjoy your ride. No hurry towards some fictional finish line. "Maybe tomorrow we can surf again, Daddy?" Sure GG, as long as you're enjoying yourself.

How passe'...

I used to have a 5'6 Larmo keel from KG. It was one of the best small wave boards I've ever ridden. Corpo-politico tomfoolery kind of made KG a joke. But back in the day (what? 200? is back in the day?) KG had Larmo and RK repping from a seriously knowledgeable fishhead perspective. I still love this shticky- tacky video and song. It makes me want to paddle around on Kauai and in Baja. Reality is that I'm too poor to travel to the Garden Isle and too unwilling to scare my wife by traveling in California Sur at the present moment.

Speaking of things fishy- Lis resurrection board is eminent.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Architectural Psyche...

Photo: web foundling

Archetypes are made, stone by stone, image by image.

Waves were junk at The Drive Through. Grabbed my fins, hung my key around my neck and ran a minute or fifteen to Triton's Doorstep. Bodysurf session ensues. A few caverns explored. Sinus flood and tired legs my reward. All around are clones.

Twenty seven 6'2 thrusters, a few fishies, and me. The Logos are important. The wetsuits are important (Matuse is the new SD uniform by the way). The scowls are important. People can make almost anything into a competition. A beautiful, simple, sublime activity mangled by human insecurities and corresponding narcissism. Don't they know that I stopped going to Church to escape the pollution of the perfect by The Body Politic? I'm a member of The Church of the Open Sky. Look up and see the glide of the gull, gaze down and see me, sliding along on my belly, arm outstretched in an embrace to hold the whole of the sea close to me.

On the way back to The Drive Through a few of us are chatting. "I would love to live there." Yes. An elevator down to separate me from The Rest. A circle of windows giving me reign over a kingdom that I serve. The tide and wind would be my clock. The swell would be my church bell. Ring, sweet sea, ring.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Monday, August 3, 2009

Comflex reasoning...

Pendo most likely via Cher.

The new TSJ arrives. I love that white envelope. Inside are the usual suspects. I line them up and analyze each one thoroughly. Melanesia looks unbelievable. Alter's story gives me nostalgia for the days from before I was born. I sensed the stoke in the womb.

I come across an article about flex. Pendo is a contributing voice. He's one of my favorite Sin Diego surf characters. The 'stache is just so enamored of surfing and surfcraft it makes me giggle. I don't think I'll soon forget doing figure eights on a wave with our surfmats, bouncing off each other and grinning like my son on the bumpercars at Belmont. It's no surprise he's into the mat. He understands about variable flex. He and Stanley Pleskunas are a couple of minds on the hunt. His mind is always flexing. Take a wander over to his new site created by RR of 70%.

A bit of a surfing hiatus this last week while I enjoyed time with my family by the poolside on vacation. GG can now swim about eight feet underwater pretty comfortably. Tomorrow a bit of snorkeling and a GLIDE session. life is hard.

Friday, July 24, 2009

All rules apply...

- JEwing pic of a real poster Somewhere, USA-

So many sessions with compromises. So many mediocre swells. So many slalom runs through crowded shoulders. So many glares and stares because of backpaddling and lack of etiquette. Today, a day with definite swell, I needed a more satisfying experience. Where to go...

I headed to Opposite Viejo's. Here is a wave with fine form. A birthplace of innovation, a bastion of civility- sometimes maintained through incivility. Waves were sleek and running down the reef in beautiful syncopation. The low tide was helping to open some almond-eyed barrel sections. There were no leashes in the lineup even though the waves were head high and fast. If you didn't make the barrel or fell on a turn, you swam. Good surfers were taking turns in a semi-orderly fashion. I, an interloper by any measure, was graced with many fine waves. I shared a couple of mat waves with Pflex and Tmat. Fish and fin originators were enjoying their earned status in the lineup.

I am grateful that there are still a very few spots like this one- spots where a healthy dose of proud localism and common sense surf etiquette combine in ways that create order and opportunity in the lineup.

Tomorrow, a weekend with swell, I'm off to a less frequented locale, or perhaps just The Drive Through...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The spaces in between...

Another earnest snap via Grant Newby

Been traveling. Toasts made, hotels, and hospitality. In times of travel past, a geothermal angst bubbles up. When the salty sea? When a return to freedom and simple, joyful immersion? This time I choose a different path.

"Where's that trail to Del Sur Beachy? It's pretty easy, right?" A call comes from a friend, still at home, still on track for a little surf session. I am in landlocked Microsoft mini-city. My teeth grit. "Yeah, it's easy but keep your eyes peeled for snakes. I saw a few there a while ago. Have a nice session."

The trail is a beautiful piece of coastal scrub framed by a brittle bridge with blue beauty deep beyond. It can be a bit steep, with narrow lanes between barbed plants and the aforementioned underfoot serpents. I always walk it happily. And it's not even because it leads me to surf or offers a change from the concrete footbed of daily life. The reason why it is a special path is because a few hundred yards away a nice, manicured, completely denaturalized cement trail leads to the southern end of the same stretch of coast. I like the scrub trail partly because it is not the paved trail.

So it goes with my landlocked travels. I am on the scrub trail. I will enjoy the nuance and rigor of this trail and return to the coast a little more slowly, but with a perspective of patience and appreciation.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A stoke quartet...

Teach a man to fish... (photo via Grant Newby)

Eight hours up the coast to the refuge by the sea. The islands were blocking any swell from lighting up Barbara's Corner. Further up the coast a bit of bounce was showing. My family reunion could not have been held in a prettier picture. It is so blessedly enlightening to move from arid and vapid southern California to the forest- fronted reefs of Alta. My sweet son slept. I crept, down to the shore to slide some on my belly. A surf mat travels well in a car five full and packed to the gills with road trip fodder. The water is clear, alive. A slight chill in July? Thankfully, yes.

A day or two before my trip north I receive this email from down under:

"Mate ,

great piece of writing on your blog today. Thanks for that , you captured it all there. Here are some fish mongers for you."

He also sends a picture, found above, worthy of a screen background on any soul-sucking interweb wipeout machine.

A day or two before receiving Mr. Newby's noble email I chat with an artistan surfer of recent acclaim for a project-in-process. We chat about mystery isles in undisclosed oceans, African instruments, and the reasons for the omission of a striking DVD extra from the original film. He is obviously a surfer talking to another surfer, not a minor celebrity talking to a minor fan."Here's my number, give me a call when you can..."

A day or two before the chat my son is in sixty seven degree water. "Let's Boogie!" he shouts. I lay him on top of the shin high whitewater. He slides towards shore, hands gripping the boogie, face shining a new confidence. A few waves later he goes through the rinse cycle. He comes up gasping...."I liked that wipeout!"

Let's boogie!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A chorus of approval...

Josh Hall, slider/creator of many crafts.

The beautiful present, as framed by Thomas Campbell, places us surfers in a mad mansion of a million rooms, all populated by subgroups of enthusiasts. And we, the lucky, get to inhabit the most dynamic room of all- the green room. And what a fascinating diaspora of characters fill our room. Middle of summer booty wearers rub shoulders with smug sliders with surf knots on their weathered feet. Hi-pro bro/brahs give the surfer's shake to profoundly experienced feral tube hunters. Small wave fishmongers look at each other eye to eye and grin, both knowing a pleasure unique to our sub culture. In the evolution of surfing we are immersed in a period of much experimentation and open minded joy inspired simply by the act of sliding a wave in a pleasing manner. We need to celebrate this moment.

This morning there were logs, fish, shorties, alaias, mats(me), boogies, SUPs, and bodysurfers in the water at my local. Hoot for the kook. Hoot for the ripper. Hoot for the grom. Help them to understand the etiquette of the lineup with patience and understanding. Embrace the joy of the present and give thanks for being a part of our strange, wonderful tribe.

Above, Josh Hall, San Diego shaper, points the way. Sin Diego has always had something of a "ride anything" mentality. We've always had our niche slide tribes. Now the functionality of that mindset is manifesting among a new generation. Encouraging.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Small steps forward....

Fate sometimes seems to shrug her shoulders, cover her eyes, and flip a coin.

A few years ago a triad of reasons led me to spend more time surfing in one spot than I had in the past preferred. I needed easy access, consistent waves, and a place where my family could spend time at the beach. A nice spring swell had me sliding Civil Rights and the decision was made. In time, I learned the spot(s) and met some outstanding surfers amid the chaos of a very busy break in the very busy city I call home. Unexpectedly, my "have-to" spot has become one of my favorite places to surf and be a surfer. Yes, the surf schools, softboards, and SoCal 'Tude Dudes dirty the water a bit, but what I've found is a pretty rootsy gathering of surf stoked generations coexisting happily(?) amid the waves. Among those of the younger generation is Josh Oldenburg.

Fade the peak and go right. Cross step, cross step. Hang. Throw ten toes. Back to the tail. Kick out to kneepaddle.

Such was my introduction to young surfer/shaper Joshua Oldenburg. Friendly, reflective, motivated, and intelligent make a good recipe when cooking up a fledgling shaping career. But nothing beats out skill. By his own admission he's always been good with his hands. The proof is in the pudding. Granted, he's a true grom in shaping terms, but it is evident that he cares about surfboards and has the desire to create remarkable surfcraft. "I love all things related to surfboards." Josh says. It shows. He crafts a variety of equipment, all a vision of his own surfing life. You'll find sleek singles, aircraft carrier noseriders, and pod racers coming out of his workshop. Interestingly, all glasswork is by his own hand. "It allows me to keep completely engrossed in the building process." Josh reflects.

His stomping grounds and its accomplished surfers have shaped his vision of surfing. Watching Kevin Connelly, his primary surfing and shaping influence, has been the inspiration for his full-involvement noseriding style and the fountainhead for his log design.
"My largest influence comes from Kevin Connelley. His ability to ride any type of board well is amazing. On a log Kevin never leaves the tip that style of nose riding has definitely transferred heavily into my shape design." His work with Roy Sanchez and Mike "Matzo "Mataratzo have informed his glasswork. Conversations with local shapers such as Terry Goldsmith and Don Laughlin have provided necessary guardrails on the highway of his shaping trip. The coalescing force of so many divergent but experienced board builders has empowered Joshua to flatten his learning curve a bit.

It is not surprising that a break where Rusty, Bob Mitsven, Richard Kenvin, and Josh Hall might be sharing the lineup on any given day would produce young shapers and surfers of note. Joshua Oldenburg understands that he is fortunate to have been witness to great surfing and shaping during his young surfing life and also understands that he is at the beginning of a long, beautiful life of board building. "Just like anyone else who has attempted to shape could tell you, those first couple boards are rough, but I stuck with it and now my shapes are resembling surfboards. I really build because I love most things related to surfing."

That love of surfing and surfboards has led him to this point. With all the force of influence coming to bear on his able hands he is beginning to create really nice boards. Mind you, there is room to grow, but this is something Joshua understands and takes seriously.
"My shapes are constantly evolving, progressing and expanding. I have been fortunate enough to surround myself with phenomenal surfers who are willing to ride my creations and give me constructive feedback. Richard Kaminski, Peter Nguyen, Garrett Highhouse, and Tristan Sullaway (young rippers) have been really supportive of my shapes and with their help I have been able to make them boards that work. I am really looking forward to developing a brand name and business out of my shapes...At the end of the day I see myself building surfboards for as long as I can."

Shorepound jump, belly to a paddle. Spin, dig hard. Pop up and set the rail. view......

This morning I spent an hour and a half in hollow closeouts with one friend. A set came. We pulled in, smiled at the view, and were digested by the sandy, sweet sea. Conversation drifted towards the prismatic visions of life offered to us by our personal history as surfers. We were thankful to be surfers and thankful to surfing for helping to broaden our experience. I look into the future with optimism, past the polluting smog of crowds, Billavolcom, and narrow minds, confident that places like mine with people like those who surf and sip coffee there will inspire people like Josh Oldenburg to surf and create.

All photos Garrett Highhouse, who I believe also helped with Josh's logo and website (which iz the biz).

Busted a fin box on my favorite board, 5'8 Josh Hall mini fish simmons in the shorey this morning. Damn you closeout barrells! No, I didn't mean that. Really.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


As of late I've been meandering about the watery world on boards of increased scale. I've been riding a lot of this:

Christian Beamish, 10' or so.

because of this:

Josh Hall, big fish simmons
and this:

Skip Frye

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Leary had it right...

As strange as the man was, he had it right. Pseudo-shaman Timothy Leary, prophet at the center of the now decades old LSD centrifuge, once said that surfers were perhaps the most "evolved" of all people groups. We give up accumulation for the sake of "the dance". We forsake cultural self-evaluation and the consequent neuroticism for "the dance". The stage becomes more important than the audience. The improvisational act becomes more relished than the expectation of a scripted life. "The dance", the pure moments experienced while riding on a wave of energy moving through liquid beneath your body, is a consuming presence in the surfer's thoughts.

As it is for a wave it is for a life. The moments spent creating compel us onward. The emergence of a new paradigm is a moving target, but worth pursuing. Doodle becomes sketch becomes painting becomes triptych becomes installation becomes interaction between idea and the viewer. One wave becomes scribble becomes board dimensions becomes draft shape becomes a realized board design strand. Creative acts build upon their own younger brothers' foundational steps. Just as that first wave transforms into that life-long memory of a wave. Just as one board design becomes an access point to another design.

Above, Manuel C. Caro shares a snapshot in the evolution of his surfing and shaping dance. He is a man who relishes the creative act for the full engagement that is required of it and the rewards it brings in like kind. The only description of riding a hull that has ever intrigued me beyond, "that's a cool trip." I was fortunate enough to handle a fine little stubby, fruit of Mr. Caro's hands, and can honestly say that I'm ready to give the shape a go. The dance goes on.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Terry Martin has literally spent as much time holding a Skil 100 in his hands as Griffin has spent breathing. And yet, there is a kinship.

A web of experience links us dynamically. There is the shared excitement of the night-before-the-dawn, the early bird's delight, The moment of real fear when you are a ghost of your dream surfer, peering over the edge of your local break at just-out-of-comfort-zone size. We see it in each others' eyes, glassed over from a glass half-full outlook on life born of a transcendental pursuit. The pedestrian act of the surf check is our weekly parade through the stations of the cross. Our collective memory revolves around saints who you might meet on State Street or on the hills of Oregon. Accessible, assessable.

But really, it is a selfish enterprise. We want to share the love of the experience, but not the wave. A grand argument between theologians has long surrounded the question of the true nature of the human spirit. Are we generous and good? Are we selfish and bad? Yes.

And in the picture above Griffin is listening. And Terry is telling. And so goes the stoke of one surfer to another. Shaper of yesterday and now to shaper of tomorrow. Here is the difference. Here is how surfing and surfboards are different. Mass produced commodities of the pre-pubescent mega consumer be damned. Bring forth the young and the willing to listen, learn, surf, and shape. Griffin, when you shape your 100th look me up. I've got an order for you.

Photo Marsek

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Celestine Aquifer...

On a hill above the southwind beachbreak live a pantheon of surfers. All more adept than me. Or you.

My son and friends walk through a hallway. Windows show syncopated fin flicks, tail slides, and speed runs on either side of the corridor. GG traces a winding line through the hall, gazing through each shrine's window. He observes, questions, places himself amid the scope and scale of the ocean's varied inhabitants.

We lay for a moment on the floor. In front of us and above us is a pane of glass. On one side concrete, petro chemicals, the necessity of land preservation (my son says "Thanks, Mr. President.") On the other is a column of water, stacked with an array of creatures each of their own dignity, wholeness. Our eyes scan the portal. We imagine ourselves as creatures of the sea.

Outside the building I look down at surfers playing in the happy swells. I scan from Cave Cove to Triton Pier. A thousand times I've surfed those waves in my mind's eye as I stood watching them. A thousand times I've slipped the surface that binds me and entered the water below. Today I don't dream of surfing the waves. Today I imagine that I am below the waves, immersed completely in the salty, holy water.

Happy Birthday GG. It was a happy day for me, too.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Anythink beyond three...

Nice location to spread out in the water and on the beach. Can you spot my mat?

Mirandon innovation.

When I was thirteen I could barely put a nail into a 2x4. Mini-Simmons from Windan' Grom Griffin.
Michael Miller is a talented craftsman and as sincere as Sunday (bringin' it back!).

JHall fish with killer artwork.Lovelace's extremely functional fishy being examined by yours truly. Yes, keels are for reals.

The first Fish Frye I've attended since Toby brought stew. I enjoyed it, though the focus has shifted as interests do, away from the San Diego Centric Fishy scene (I had two Fryes and a Lis on the beach to be ridden and only one taker!). Lots of bladey hulls, Campbell Mindful Machines, twin bars of soap, and quad destroyers were on the beach. I tried out my bad toe on a Pendo (Thanks Steve!) but I sucked (don't run down the rocks at bahia burrito reef) . Went to the mat and had a ball- as always. The highlights were talking to and meeting some names and faces, seeing some boards and fins, being in the sun and at the beach. I'll go again next year with a good toe.

All photos borrowed from the internets. Thanks.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Off the rack wings...

There are Skip Frye boards on the racks at Pacific Beach Surf Shop right now: 2:45 p.m. Saturday the 2nd day of spring, 2009. The Double-eagle is calling you. The Fish-Simmons is swimming towards you. The Noserider is picking itself as yours. The Magic is uttering incantations in your general direction. There are mulitple stringers and custom tail-blocks involved. This is rare. Standard finder's fee applies: two shakas and a smoothie.

I am not affiliated with P.B. Surf Shop. I simply like their take on surfing and I like their owner.

"Here at PB Surf Shop we pride ourselves in stocking surfboards of only the highest quality by local shapers. All surfboards are hand shaped, hand glassed, and hand picked personally by our staff here at PB Surf Shop."

If you don't care for a Frye they also carry Larmo boards, JHalls, Kconnelly noseriders and lots of other local craftsmen's shapes.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


16mm from Thinkmat. He made the waterhousing and makes his own surfmats, too. There are all kinds of rats in this watery maze.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Filter through...

Even with the finest surf films I find myself weary of certain sections or riders. I suppose this echoes my surfing interests. The Present was chock full of surfing I loved, liked, and some I'd have just assumed not watch. Highlights for me were the immaculate water shots of Indonesian barrels (courtesy of Mike Stewart I believe), the unbelievable vibe of the "first ascent" on the African oasis, and the comedy skit. I could've left half of the alai'a stuff on the cutting room floor. It's cool but just not my cup.

Above is a little teaser I unearthed at Sway's. Steve Cleveland of Another State of Mind looks to have something fun in the works.

Can you guess what surfing might not be my favorite? You got it, the try-hard superman air on a 9' board- blah!

FIlter through...

Monday, March 9, 2009

To be a surfer...

In the present it is okay to be this guy^

The present moment is a gift.

For the 25th of December I received a worthy surf film. The echoes of stoked surfers' hoots reverberated from the southern hemisphere to my living room. The sea waves were ridden by those worthy of being called surfers as opposed to people who happen to surf. A story of brutal grief transformed through the meditative, restoring life of wave riding. The old soul of the filmmaker mixes with the youthful physicality of his subject. Striking. Beautiful. Honest.

Last night I slipped away to receive a gift. I parked just east of a classic, summertime, low-tide, barreling reef. The film began and I was in a classic, all season, vision of surfing perfection-immersed. Visions of lined up logging waves, fishy-heaven point waves were served. Kegs of machined Indonesian how-deep-can-she get waves, anyman's weekend waves were served. All of them feasts. Boards and non-boards of all types ridden with an evident hand of skill and the bluff of ease were inspirational. From the artist comes art.

To be a surfer in the present moment is a gift. We are more free than ever. We are more able to eschew the branding of surfing and embrace the true community of surfing. More capable of being humbled by unfamiliar surfcraft. We are closer to the purity of sand in the shorts, sun on the back, "did you see that?" days. Rules are for competitions, uniforms for institutions. Believe me- we, us surfers, do not need rules and uniforms. We need the sheer joy of surfing found in the present moment.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I don't wear tight pants or have a beard. I have never gone by the name "Skeezy" or "Catfish"(Epic!;). I was playing in punk and hardcore bands when "emo" was just a term for a kind of music. I'm a schoolteacher with a receding hairline and a family. I like surfboards and surfing. I will be seeing this film, Thomas Campbell's The Present, on Sunday night at 7 p.m. in La Jolla. I'll be the stoked surfer with the beautiful wife and killer grom. I'll consider a surf movie night a gift.

p.s. I'd like to share some old recordings of my bands on this blog. Any help for ways to embed?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Legitimize it...

My friend is a cheater. He is tall, athletic, an excellent paddler, a phenomenal natural surfer, and he insists on riding 9' longboards like they are shortboards. Yes, he occasionally nosetouches, but mostly just pumps, jives, floats, and bashes. When I used to be a diehard sponger he would give me a bit of a hard time because it was "easier" to ride prone than standing. Now he justifies his cheating. "Surfing is about catching waves and having fun." Simple. True.

Is riding a fish, log, mat, kneelo, glider, funnyboard, toothpick, or boogie cheating? Is surfing most valid when it is done in a more difficult manner? Who is qualified to judge which is the most difficult of wave riding arts? Surely someone who is accomplished in all disciplines. Is that you? It's not me.

I've been burned and snaked a fair share of times for bouncing about on a Neumatic. I've had rocks thrown at me for riding a boogie at good barreling waves. I assume the fact that prone riding is viewed as an easier surfing art justified the perpetrators' malicious acts.

The wood ancients are all the rage partly because they're difficult to surf. The MSurfica/Hynd cult is partly validated by the perception of difficulty.Why isn't the West Oahu ripper pictured above (Danny Kim) a modern hero? He is doing what few others can do and doing it well.

And those A.P.E.S are the biz. If you have a pair send them to me. I prefer the green.