Friday, January 31, 2014

This is Surfing, Old School Style

If reading's your bag, you probably have visited a used book store or two in your time. Well, in my limited experience, it doesn't get much better than Hein & Company in Jackson, CA. Two floors jammed packed with thousands upon thousands of books on every topic imaginable tucked into every nook and cranny. In brief: sensory overload for book lovers and knowledge seekers.

While visiting my mother-in-law over the holidays, I stopped into this eclectic shop in hopes of finding a good read to curl up with while I digested 2 metric tons of food and drink. Given Jackson is a few hundred miles away from the coast, I was curious to see whether the store had any books on surfing. Surprisingly, there were two. The first one was Daniel Duane's well known book Caught Inside. The other book was considerably older and, no disrespect to Daniel Duane, more unique. Decision made.

Originally published in 1960, Surf-RidingIts Thrills and Techniques, by O.B. Patterson, is a step back in time. Any images you may have of 1960s longboarding is probably tied to Bruce Brown films like The Endless Summer or the current stylemasters who give a nod to this era - cats like Joel Tudor and Kassia Meador. But this kind of longboard surfing is light years ahead of the images captured in this book. No tube rides, stalls, head dips or nose rides. Just trimming and riding in the curl. Post-war surfing was clearly a simpler time as it predates the emergence of scammers trying to get rich off the sport/lifestyle. Thus, Surf-Riding is a nostalgic read.

That said, the book is hopelessly and helplessly hokey. Patterson begins his ode to the Sport of Kings with step-by-step instructions for paddling a surfboard, catching a wave, popping up and, of course, riding a wave. While his intention is sincere, anyone who has ever tried surfing will agree that a "how to" manual doesn't remotely prepare you for the real thing. Surfing is not like baking a cake. 

Today this is just called a kook wiping out.

He then cajoles anyone who's still hesitant to give surfing a try:

Join us in this thrilling sport:
     When the sea is raising hell
     with breakers crashing high
     We will cheer for those brave lads
     who dared join us and try!

His discussion of surfing in Northern California is also comical:

For daring action and sheer foolhardiness we doubt if there is anything in the world that will compare to a bunch of wave-happy Northern California surfers in the act of riding the 'big ones' that roll in their rugged coast. In addition to shattering waves, they must brave bone-chilling water most of the year.

Unless you have tried the ocean water in Northern California, all this [neoprene] gear may sound strange, but, Brother - just take a dip for yourself and you will understand their problem!

Wetsuits have evolved ever so slightly since the '50s,
as has photoshopping

There are also several notable surfers mentioned in the book whose names are badly mis-spelled. Given their stature in surfing, you'd think this was avoidable. For example:

Dale Velsy (Velzy)
Mickey Minose (Muñoz)
Ricky Gregg (Grigg)
Jose Angle (Angel)

All that said, the book's naivete or high kook factor can be forgiven as it merely reflects the author's love of surfing. He is comprehensive in his overview, addressing all things surfing: design, construction, surfing in Hawaii vs. the mainland & other countries, and finally surfing in legend and history. This guy is clearly stoked on surfing. But let their be no mistake: Patterson didn't just talk the talk, admiring surfing from the beach. His career was primarily in PR but he was a proud member of the Outrigger Canoe Club and surfed for years along Oahu's South Shore and the California coast with his son Richard "Dick" Patterson.

O.B. "Pat" Patterson -
THIS guy is stoked on surfing!

Pat's alter ego: surf bum

Clearly, Surf-Riding is a period piece, a step back in time. Lord only knows what Patterson would think of today's surfing, characterized by giant waves and big airs. What hasn't changed is the stoke surfers have for surfing. You heard it here first, ladies and gents: stoke is timeless. You can take that to the bank.

Apparently dropping in is a timeless practice. Hope these guys are friends....

Who wouldn't want to be here?

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