Saturday, October 27, 2012

Chasing Jay

Surfing movies aren't very good. They just aren't. There are a few exceptions: The Endless Summer, Riding Giants, Surfing Hollow Days, and maybe even Step Into Liquid. But these are documentaries. Fictional surfing movies it would seem are almost required by law to be bad. They're hopelessly cliche and tend to do more harm than good to surfing's image. While "only a surfer knows the feeling" is also cliche, when it comes to translating the magic and mystique of surfing onto the big screen, the mantra definitely applies.

 I saw tonight the premiere of Chasing Mavericks, the story of Jay Moriarity. This was a highly anticipated movie given a big Hollywood budget, Gerard Butler in a starring role, and the latest camera technology to capture huge surf at Maverick's, a break known around the world by surfers and non-surfers alike. That said, there was, at least on my part, some apprehension with how good (read: true to surfing) it was going to be. Mind you, my expectations were low as, once again, surfing movies aren't very good. In fact, they're down right terrible. Blue Crush, Ride the Wild Surf, and the grand daddy of them all, Point Break. Point Break is so bad that I think the primary objective of any fictional movie about surfing should be that it MUST be better than Point Break. Big Wednesday, North Shore, and, yes, Chasing Mavericks are better than Point Break. 

Don't get me wrong, Chasing Mavericks was over the top and pretty predictable. I'm not just saying that because the Jay Moriarty story is pretty well known in the surfing community, even more so up here in Nor Cal. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the movie was actually less about Jay and more about Frosty Hesson, his mentor and father figure. Both Frosty and Jay have their fair share of inner demons but their mutual respect and admiration for one another and surfing the big waves at Maverick's make them better (and more interesting) people. In all, the story line and acting were fine but the writing, while cheesy at times, was tolerable. On the other hand, the cinematography and surfing footage were exceptional. This was a particular treat given all the years I've spent surfing and hanging out in Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. It was great seeing Boat Docks, Montara, Scott's Creek, the Hook, the Lane and several other local spots on the big screen. And the aerial shots of Frosty's van cruising up and down Cabrillo Highway along the San Mateo County coast made me so grateful  that I get to live in such a beautiful area.

Would Jay have approved of the movie? My guess is yes. I think he would have liked seeing a lot of his friends, some big names in the Maverick's community, contribute to the making of the movie. Peter Mel, Greg Long, and Grant Washburn were just a few that I recognized. That said, I was surprised to see no sign of or even a reference to Jeff Clark (beyond a couple cameo shots of his blue 4x4). Jeff of course is the man who surfed Maverick's by himself for 15 years, introduced it to the surfing and action sports world, and is basically synonymous with the break. Without Jeff Clark there would be no Jay Moriarity story.

In all, Chasing Mavericks is a good movie about a very special surfer, his dedication to ride the giant waves at Maverick's and his relationship with a complex but compassionate man. If Jay hadn't died so prematurely this movie would likely have never been made. But the impact he had on the surfing community in the short time he was alive made the movie inevitable. I'm glad it was made and the producers, directors, actors, and everyone else involved with the film did an admirable job. 

Until next time, may your waves be head high and glassy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Boards Aplenty in Del Mar

Hard to believe a week has already passed since the International Surfboard Show in Del Mar last weekend.  It was a great event, following up last year's Sacred Craft edition. There is so much to see at these events and, although I had two days to take it all in this year, I sit back now and think of so many things I wished I had done while I was there. Next year.

What I did see were lots and lots of beautiful surfboards. Some being shaped, some for wall hanging, and some (lots, in fact) for surfing. The show is all expo but features work primarily from artists and shapers (these craftsmen of course create their own form of art). Regardless of whether form or function is your thing, there was eye candy everywhere you looked. 

You heard it here first: Paipo boards
will be the next hand planes

I want to be in that surfboard

This one too.

Leopard skinned Asym -- sweet!

Best of Show by Meyerhoffer

Pat Rawson and Mark Richards in the shaping booth
For shapers and fans of surfboard design, this year's shaper honoree was Mark Richards, the 4x world champion from New South Wales, Australia. Richards is unique in that he is only one of two world champions to have shaped his own equipment. This feat and his world championship run of 1979-1982 were both unprecedented. As a result, six shapers ranging from Taz Yassine, a 16 year old from the Canary Islands to world famous Pat Rawson from Hawaii came out to pay their respects by shaping an MR classic from the famous Free Ride era: a winged, swallow tail twin fin. Watching a shaper transform a raw blank into a finely crafted surfboard with a variety of hand tools, power tools, and abrasives is a sight to be seen. They only have 90 minutes which, given how highly engineered these boards are, isn't a lot of time. Nevertheless, their work is a lesson in craftsmanship. 

A special treat was the surfboards on display from the Longboard Collector's Club. As you can imagine, these guys are passionate about surfboards and preserving their unique history. I had a great time talking with some of them and learning about their approach to restoration, which will help me with the surfboards I'm restoring.

Check out that curved stringer.
Looks like Bing was channeling
Frank Lloyd Wright on this gem.
A Da Cat and a signed Velzy Jacobs - both cherry.

I also enjoyed bringing my own surfboard this year and logged some serious water time, including a session at a little known spot the locals call "San-O" or San Onofre. I don't understand why it isn't better known, particularly as it's next to the biggest set of boobs in the the world. 

Mahalo Uncle Greg for the State Park pass!

Until next time, may your waves be head high and glassy.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Dewey Redux

On my way down to The International Surfboard Show in Del Mar, I stopped off in San Clemente at the Surfing Heritage Foundation, the closest thing we surfers have to the Smithsonian Institute. I had wanted to visit for quite sometime, however, with the recent opening of their Dewey Weber exhibit, the timing was perfect and I couldn't pass it up. I met some nice folks there, particularly Linda Michael and Bolton Colburn, and definitely got a sense for their passion in what they do, which is basically to preserve and celebrate surfing's rich heritage. This made it even easier for me to donate some Dewey artifacts I had held onto for several years, namely a program from his memorial paddle out and the original L.A. Times obituary.

I'm by no means an expert on Dewey and I look forward to reading Gerald Derloshon's biography "Little Man on Wheels" so I went into the exhibit expecting to learn something new. I wasn't disappointed. I knew Dewey was revered in the surfboard industry, both by amateur surfers (a.k.a. the consumers that made the Weber Performer the most successful selling longboard of all time) and manufacturers, but there's a lot more to his story.

Nat Young's Weber (that's him carving on this
very  board in the picture to the left)
A Performer, Team jacket, and Hermosa
nose ride - all Vintage Dewey

I was pleasantly surprised to see how much of an impact he had on his team riders. Dewey worked with some of the best: Nat Young, Mike Tabeling, Gary Propper, David Nuuhiwa and Randy Rarick to name just a few. It was clear he was both a coach, a sounding board and a mentor. The latter is all the more impressive when you consider the individual accomplishments of his riders but reflects just how influential he was. 

Can't wait to see this in larger than life size!
I was also happy to learn that he was a strong family man which couldn't have been easy given the daunting constraints of being a coach, business owner, and surfing ambassador. But as much of a mentor he was to his riders, he must have been equally so to his kids. His sons Shea and Corey in fact have kept the Dewey Weber legacy and business alive. Even the city of Hermosa Beach has taken notice and will capture in bronze a famous Leroy Grannis photo of Dewey. 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Dewey's demise was tragic and premature. It's a shame he isn't still around to enjoy these celebrations of his contributions. Regardless, I look forward to reading the biography and I look forward to seeing the legacy of this great surfer and his accomplishments, both in the water and out, continue to attract the recognition they deserve. 

Thanks to my new friends at the Surfing Heritage Foundation and keep up the great work. Until next time, may your waves be head high and glassy.
Fins so famous, they made them into trophies
Decorative Weber Performers

Lineup of Webers

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Vera Wang is No Match for Bob Pearson

There was a period of time years ago when all I wanted to do was longboard. I was really digging what Joel Tudor was doing and couldn’t get enough of Bruce Brown’s movies. Longboard surfing, to me, seemed so much more stylish and elegant. This was at the time when short boarding became less about carving big, hard turns and more about smacking the lip and launching airs. I don’t doubt for a second that that stuff is hard but, for me, it gets old. Call me old fashioned but I’d rather look at a wave as a canvas and not a launch ramp. As a result, I thought cross stepping, cheater fives and drop knee turns were WAY more interesting and fun. Longboard surfing seemed to connect more closely with the essence of surfing: hanging out and cruising; no hurry, no worry.

When I returned to Northern California I brought this chill mentality with me but was missing a proper longboard. I had loaned my only longboard to a friend who was going through a rough patch in life and needed the board more than I did. But within a very short period of time I realized if I wasn’t longboarding, I wasn’t surfing at all. And that’s not a good thing. One day, after months of frustration, I had had enough. I bit the bullet. I walked into the Arrow Surf Shop on the West Side of Santa Cruz and left with a beautiful, brand new longboard. To this day it remains the only new surfboard I have ever purchased. This was a pretty big deal at the time. I was engaged to be married, was on a fixed income, and a longboard was not in the budget. But as the saying goes, you can’t put a price tag on happiness. Or sanity for that matter. So I plopped down almost a grand for a board, skeg, leash, and bag. I didn’t see this as frivolous spending but rather as an investment in my happiness and, again, sanity. And I was prepared to make the same argument with my fiancée.

As luck would have it, I came home and was greeted by my fiancée who had informed that she had just made a similar, big ticket purchase: her wedding dress (no, it wasn't a Vera Wang but I don't know any other wedding dress designers and neither do you). She knew how important surfing was too me and had seen the impact of the withdrawals I’d been experiencing so she was cool with it.

Machine shaped and finished off by Bob Pearson of Arrow Surfboards, the board is a 9’6” triple stringer with an accompanying t-band on a square tail. It combines modern lines with a classic style. While not a noserider in the traditional sense (wide, concave nose) here’s enough rocker in the nose so that it can nose ride and it doesn’t pearl on steeper waves. The foil is definitely more modern – in addition to the kick in the nose and the tail, there’s plenty of volume in the center, allowing for good float and knee paddling. In keeping with the classic tradition, it’s got full 50/50 rails, allowing the water to wrap around the curve of the rail and hold the board in the wave for enhanced trimming and noseriding.

Twelve years later, my wife’s wedding dress sits in a box in our basement. On the other hand, my longboard has seen considerably more use. I stopped riding shortboards for over ten years in favor of this versatile board. I’ve ridden it countless times on waves of all sizes and quality up and down the coast. While it’s showing its age it’s still a special board. It got shelved over a year ago when I got another longboard (read about it here) until I needed it in a pinch. I took it out on a small, knee- to waist-high day and fell in love with it all over again. I caught tons of waves and was reminded of how responsive it is. I’ve had similar experiences with it since. So while fall is in the air and I’m looking forward to surfing shorter boards on bigger waves, I have the constant reminder of how much fun longboarding is, particularly when you have an amazing board.

Until next time, may your waves be head high and glassy.