Chas Smith’s new book, Cocaine + Surfing: A Sordid History of Surfing’s Greatest Love Story is hilarious, witty, brutally honest, and about so much more than the title suggests. There’s a whole lot about the surf industry. And also about the surf industry’s tendency to whitewash. You’ll get a sense of the existential dread we surf journalist types experience way too frequently. Most of all, you’ll roll around with Chas, who’s a whole lot of fun to roll around with. I wanted to present to you an excerpt but I couldn’t decide on just one, so I give you two.
I like this first passage for its sheer anarchism. In the course of a couple of paragraphs, Chas deprecates a surf industry trade show, the plight of the surf writer, and in turn his own fine-ass self. Mostly, though, I love his joyous prose—
There is a fine dust floating in the air that is for sure cancerous. Generator exhaust, aerosol sunscreen, vape pen, spray paint, spray cheese, sand particles that have been pulverized by thousands upon thousands of dirty perverted teenage feet and sent skyward before getting sucked right into my lungs.
But I deserve it. I deserve a slow and torturous death at the hands of the surf industry since I actively work against it each and every day. Since I am a tattletale. Oh, I knew before setting out upon this hero’s journey that the surf journalist was a cursed soul whose mission was to contextualize utter vapidity. But then, for one brief moment, I smelled romance, I smelled love, I smelled cocaine and thought, “Redemption!” I thought, “Make surfing great again!”
But I am irredeemable. Cursed. Dying a slow cancerous irrelevant death in Huntington Beach at the US Open of Surfing trying to write a story titled “US Open: Raging rivers of urine!” Back where I began. Back where I first felt the whisper of God’s voice in my surfer’s ear while standing in front of the International Surfing Museum God. Surfing plus her cocaine may be the greatest love story the world has ever produced, but telling it makes me a narc and I can’t be that. I can’t be a fink, a canary, a stoolie, tabby, whistleblower, snitch. What would my four-year-old angel of a daughter think? She has one rule as long as she is under my wife’s roof and only one: snitches get stitches. I can’t set a bad example for her. I must flush my dream and accept my fate. Bottle-opener sandals and bastardized Hawaiian pidgin until I die.
And I like this next passage because he gets at all these nuanced tics and taboos. He’s making astute observations and taking the piss all at once—
Surfers are a strange breed in this way. The amount of sub-contextual note and cues, the number of dos and don’ts—mostly don’ts—is staggering. Knee-buckling. Don’t walk down the beach with your leash attached to your leg. Don’t hype a hurricane swell. Don’t paddle out with more than two friends. Don’t claim a turn. Don’t exaggerate wave height. Do wildly undersell wave height. Don’t wear a neoprene surf hat. Don’t wear anything except a black wetsuit in the water. Don’t ever wear a spring suit. Ever. Don’t talk in the lineup. Keep your hands in your armpits in the lineup. Don’t keep your hands in your armpits in the lineup if another surfer already has his hands in his armpits. Don’t rub sand in your wax before paddling out. Sometimes rub sand in your wax before paddling out depending on thirty distinct factors. Don’t surf with a buckled knee because then everyone will think you are trying to copy professional surfer Craig Anderson and nothing could be more transparently try-hard in the moment than trying to copy professional surfer Craig Anderson. Don’t try hard.
Etcetera, ad infinitum.
Order a copy of Cocaine + Surfing HERE.