• The Dazzling Blue #42: Suspended Seconds

    Posted:Dec 19 2016

    Let’s play it back in the same blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pace that it seemed to happen: There was “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the Zika virus outbreak, the EU Migrant Crisis, Obama’s historical visit to Cuba, the Orlando nightclub shooting, Brexit, many Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the Rio Olympics, the US presidential election, Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature, and most recently, the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Oakland Ghost Ship Fire. There was a lot of tragedy and a lot of “truth stranger than fiction.” Closer to our aquatic home was the John John Florence world title, which seemed to be universally heart-warming and hope-inducing.

    We surfers get to experience time in a unique way. While tube riding is a fast-twitch, lightning-reflex game, it’s also a quiet meditation. Seconds are suspended. The ticking clock seems to accordion outward, breathing, giving space. And then there’s that profoundly poetic act of straddling board and contemplating the horizon. Is there a better place to think, ponder, reflect? “The gods do not deduct from man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing” goes a Babylonian Proverb. The same could be said about surfing.

    - Jamie Brisick
    The Dazzling Blue is a series of short pieces about things we do in boardshorts. It is written by Jamie Brisick. A Fulbright scholar and a lifelong surfer, Brisick has written several books about surf culture, including Have Board Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and SnowandBecoming Westerly. He lives in NYC and rides a 5'10" Channel Islands Pod.

  • The Dazzling Blue #41: Winter’s Deeper (and Colder!) Shade of Blue

    Posted:Dec 12 2016

    Winter does different things to different places. In Hawaii and Florida, it doesn’t change the water temperatures too dramatically. On the west coast and in the northeast, though, water temps plummet, swells take on a slate grey harshness, and the surfing experience becomes the yang to summer’s yin.

    At 90th Street in Rockaway Beach, bootied, gloved, and hooded surfers trot across snow to ride sub-40° A-frames. Those short interval southeast swells can really kick your ass. At Sea Girt in New Jersey one icy December I remember getting caught inside so relentlessly, so whack! whack! whack! I thought I was going to go into a grand-mal seizure. Never have head-high waves hurt so bad. Never has the cranial freeze felt so personal.

    At Rincon, surfers don 4-3 full suits and booties and lay into about 27 bottom turns across infinite bottle-green walls. In the evening, the light takes on a bluish crispness, the pelicans swoop, the sunsets vibrate in brilliant color. It’s as if the chill in the air washes away some miasma we don’t so much see as feel. The barnacle-encrusted rocks emit a more pungent smell. The seals seem to bark louder. The surf life appears more visceral.

    I think of Maverick’s as the quintessence of winter’s cruelty. Mountainous widow’s peak of a wave, water like icy cement, thick wetsuits to semi-straitjacket you, a stand of rocks on the inside hungrily awaiting your fleshy corpus. There’s nothing kind or welcoming about it. And to make matters worse, it breaks way the hell out there. And gets real crowded, ensuring that you’ll go on waves you’d likely pass on if not for the fifty other 9’6”-wielding hell men and -women.

    And I think of New Year’s morning as the best time to score uncrowded surf. A six-foot northwest swell at an undisclosed North County reef break some five years ago. Bluebird skies, sapphire seas, a pod of kelp just outside the takeoff zone. Look left—no one. Look right—one other guy, though he’s a couple hundred yards away. A set looms. A double-overhead peak stands up right before you like some long lost lover. Your insides dance. You wheel around, stroke.

    - Jamie Brisick
    The Dazzling Blue is a series of short pieces about things we do in boardshorts. It is written by Jamie Brisick. A Fulbright scholar and a lifelong surfer, Brisick has written several books about surf culture, including Have Board Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and SnowandBecoming Westerly. He lives in NYC and rides a 5'10" Channel Islands Pod.

  • The Dazzling Blue #40: Kustom Kulture Redux

    Posted:Dec 05 2016


    On a recent Saturday morning at Malibu, I found myself checking the waves alongside a longhaired, bearded, barefoot, 60s-ish guy in old faded 501s and a jean jacket bedecked with logos—AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, a Led Zeppelin ZOSO, a Rolling Stones tongue. On the back, embroidered on the denim by the look of things, was a big Grateful Dead skull. Parked not far from us was a shiny black Range Rover, a brand new-looking silver Audi wagon, and a dusty old beater of a 1970s frog green Econoline van with a Feel The Bern sticker on the rear window and an upside down American flag on the bumper. I mentally drew a line from my fellow surf-checker to the dusty van.

                It got me thinking about logos. We surfers love our logos. We like to put our personal stamp on things. It’s a sign of allegiance, as in the Windansea Surf Club jackets in the ‘60s. It’s a display of geographical pride, as in those Hawaiian Islands stickers you see on the backs of big trucks on the North Shore. It’s also part of a lineage, Kustom Kulture, the customizing of hot rods in the ‘60s that transposed into the surf culture in the form of signature pieces (Greg Noll’s prison-striped boardshorts, Dewey Weber’s red-railed longboard). We are individuals. We are DIY. We like to have the last word (i.e., give us your cool single-color boardshorts and we’ll add our own personal patch).

                Or, in the case of my fellow surf-checker who unsheathed a sun-faded ‘70s pintail single fin from his van, a Mustache Rides 5¢ sticker, displayed boldly on the nose.

    - Jamie Brisick
    The Dazzling Blue is a series of short pieces about things we do in boardshorts. It is written by Jamie Brisick. A Fulbright scholar and a lifelong surfer, Brisick has written several books about surf culture, including Have Board Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and SnowandBecoming Westerly. He lives in NYC and rides a 5'10" Channel Islands Pod.

  • The Dazzling Blue #39: Let Us Give Thanks and Praise

    Posted:Nov 21 2016

     

    In a recent post on the brilliant BrainPickings.org, founder Maria Popova added a new entry to the things she’s learned in the ten years she’s been editing the website:

    Don’t just resist cynicism — fight it actively.

    I was happy to be reminded of this. Cynicism, pessimism, nihilism, and an ironical dismissiveness that makes fun of anything sincere or earnest run rampant in today’s society. “Feel good” stuff seems more ripe for “Saturday Night Live” parody than serious delivery. And rightly so. Once meaningful phrases like “Love, Heal, Inspire,” “Be Here Now,” and “Thankful, Grateful, Blessed” have been bastardized, commodified, reduced to T-shirt slogans.

                But despite this yoga and juice culture overuse, and despite the 24-hour news cycle, there is indeed much to be grateful for. We are, after all, above ground. We have chocolate fudge brownie ice cream, and supermoons, and YouTube clips of nine-year-old Australian girls landing perfect 540s on large half pipes. As surfers, we have quiet moments on the water that are something close to sublime.

                “Much of my work involves chaos and struggle and challenges,” my friend Christian Troy, Executive Director of Waves For Water, told me. “I find my peace place in the sacred grounds of the ocean. All the elements coming together—saltwater, sun, the pulses of the sea—it rights me.”

                Best of all, at least as far as I’m concerned, we have synchronicity. The writer Geoff Dyer told me about the time he and his wife picked up a “clean and not looking like a maniac” hitchhiker on the side of the road in New Mexico, only to pass a sign a minute later: “DO NOT PICK UP HITCHHIKERS / DETENTION FACILITIES IN AREA.” Seconds after that, “Riders On The Storm” by The Doors came on the radio: There's a killer on the road/ His brain is squirmin' like a toad/If you give this man a ride/Sweet family will die. Geoff and his wife looked at each other, or rather tried not to look at each other.

                Those winks from the cosmos, those reminders of forces larger than ourselves, that waist-high wave that traveled thousands of miles across the ocean and arrived at your spot on a Saturday morning just in time for you to wheel around and ride it as it caps and peels and ultimately dissipates back to infinity — that’s a lot of be thankful for.

    - Jamie Brisick
    The Dazzling Blue is a series of short pieces about things we do in boardshorts. It is written by Jamie Brisick. A Fulbright scholar and a lifelong surfer, Brisick has written several books about surf culture, including Have Board Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and SnowandBecoming Westerly. He lives in NYC and rides a 5'10" Channel Islands Pod.

  • The Dazzling Blue #38: Second Skin: Those Pieces In Our Wardrobe That Remind Us Of Who We Are

    Posted:Oct 30 2016

     

    Halloween is a real terrific night. We get to put on costumes and step into another self. Some are conceptual and cumbersome—the Statue of Liberty or the state of Florida, for instance. Others are more like alter egos or aspirations from within—Superman or Like A Virgin-era Madonna. These costumes share one thing in common: on the morning of November 1st, they end up in the trash, or the far recesses of the closet or garage. They're useless beyond Halloween.

    They are exactly the opposite of those pieces in our wardrobe that are built to last, that take time to break in, that get better with age. These pieces—think leather jackets, jeans, Birdwells—become like a second skin. They are not only a joy to wear, but we have ongoing, years-, sometimes decades-long relationships with them. They become reminders of who we are and where we've been. And in this ephemeral, ever-changing world, ain't that a good thing?

    More often than not our deepest essence can be found by a process of stripping away, unmasking. But in the case of these pieces they are imbued with us, they hold a bit of our spirit.

    - Jamie Brisick
    The Dazzling Blue is a series of short pieces about things we do in boardshorts. It is written by Jamie Brisick. A Fulbright scholar and a lifelong surfer, Brisick has written several books about surf culture, including Have Board Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and SnowandBecoming Westerly. He lives in NYC and rides a 5'10" Channel Islands Pod.

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