Green: The Old Red


By dawn, the damage was done—downed trees, flooding, thousands without power. The swell was huge and ripped apart by 70 mph gusts.
   A surf day? No.
   None of those for a while.
   Late that afternoon I sat on the couch and read “The Tallest Trees,” a feature in the October 2009 issue of National Geographic. It detailed Mike Fay’s and Lindsey Holm’s Redwood Transect, a yearlong, 1,800-mile, south-to-north hike through California’s coast redwood forests. Flanking their route, they’d found the world’s southernmost grove at Villa Creek in Big Sur; near the article’s end, one line struck me: “On the last day of their transect, as they hunted for the northernmost redwood near Oregon’s Chetco River….”
   Wait—I lived on the banks of the Chetco. And coast redwood is Oregon’s rarest type of forest.
   I found my big Forest Service map and noticed an obscure place a few miles northeast of my cabin: next to the Snaketooth Pistol and Rifle Range was the Snaketooth Redwood Botanical Area. The world’s most northerly naturally occurring redwoods lived there, above the Chetco at Redwood Creek, which for me became the next day’s destination, to be reached on my fatbike via a cold, muddy mountain road.
   The world’s tallest trees once flourished in some two million acres from Oregon to central California. When gold surfaced in 1849, hundreds of thousands of people flocked west—quadrupling California’s population in a decade, birthing hundreds of sawmills—and the ancient giants were felled widely to quench the need for quality, quick timber, nobody really caring that the groves were older than Jesus.
   And so 2015 isn’t 1850 (when the commercial logging and clearing began)—95 percent of those thick old-growth trees, which can grow nearly 400 feet high and live for more than 2,000 years, are gone.
“The battle to save the redwoods has already been fought, and look, we’re left with table scraps,” Steve Sillett, a forest scientist at Humboldt State University (my alma mater), said in the National Geographic article. “The challenge now is understanding how to improve management on the 95 percent of the redwood landscape that’s just starting to grow.”
With myriad homes and fences and decks and patio furniture built during the past 165 years, just five precious percent of those virgin old-growth trees remain, 77 percent of them, unprotected, living on private land. The other 23 percent mostly constitute parks and preserves.
“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark that stays with you,” John Steinbeck wrote in 1962’s Travels with Charley. “They are ambassadors from another time.”
I got a late start the next day, having to wait for rain to stop. Pedaling up through the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, I surveyed “partial cut” selective logging done recently to the steep hillside groves of thin fir and cedar, established plantations on old clearcuts that one day might mimic the giants of yore. But not in our lifetimes.
Rain resumed as daylight dimmed and, sweating and slipping amongst the ferns and huckleberry, I couldn’t find the elusive northernmost patch of redwoods, otherwise easy to reach in two small parks a few miles south, with their road signage, lovely trails, and interpretive brochures.
Dusk and hunger and dark Mozart sonatas rode with me back to civilization for a $6.89 McDonald’s combo #1—Big Mac, medium fries, medium drink. More than a thousand calories and more than three times the cost of a gallon of gas ($2.17) at the local Conoco. Likely trailed by regret. (It was.)
Ironically, though, sitting on his mobility scooter at the table next to me was a beatific retired logger, north of 80, drinking his free senior coffee and reading a newspaper. He looked over and wondered aloud why I was splattered with dried mud.
“Yeah, we used to pull a lot of redwood out of there,” he said, gargle-voiced. “Not many of ‘em left, is that right?”
Those fries? Much too salty.


Michael Kew was able to create one last edit for Mollusk before embarking on his indefinite journey in the Pacific Northwest. What could be better than the classic shredding of Travers Adler at Rincon? How about arching glides across those long, graceful Rincon faces in a pair of Mollusk boardshorts? Granted, the water has cooled down a bit, so there are several clips of Travers sporting our Mollusk x Quiksilver collaborative Pelican wetsuit, but Michael was able to catch some great shredding in the rare, warm water that was cruising through Santa Barbara this fall.

Thanks to Triathalon for letting us use their tunes!

Hullway 101

Hullway 101 from The Surfer's Journal on Vimeo.

“Be careful: you might get addicted,” shaper Greg Liddle warned of the allure of displacement hulls in issue 15.2 of TSJ. “If you do, it will mess with your mind. You, the way you surf, won’t be the same.” Liddle was, of course, speaking from personal experience, having spent many decades riding and honing his own hull designs. And he wasn’t exaggerating. Many have tunneled down the rabbit hole of perfect trim and down-the-line projections offered by a well-shaped hull and a clean pointbreak. Jimmy Gamboa and Adam Muniak are two current adherents.

Catching Up With Dave Parmenter.

Dave Parmenter, Central California, August 2014. Photo: Jeff Chamberlain.
MICHAEL KEW: What’s the state of Aleutian Juice Surfboards, and why the San Luis Obispo resettlement?
DAVE PARMENTER: Up until recently, the Aleutian Juice label was more or less restricted to friends and family, since up until 2008 the bulk of my living was made as a writer; after that, I was involved with C4 Waterman Inc. until early last year. After parting ways with C4, I was no longer able to afford the high cost of living in Hawaii and so returned to my hometown of San Luis Obispo and to the little rural farmhouse and garage shaping room I have kept since 1989. I am fortunate that my friend Andrew Kidman has, with his films and articles, created considerable demand for a number of board designs that I have worked on for decades. The timing couldn’t be better for a shaper/designer like me, since so many surfers are exploring vintage or exotic surfboard design.

Photo: Andrew Kidman.
What is your assessment of today’s surfboard world?
I am very content with the present state of the domestic surfboard industry. Things are much better than they were over the past two decades. It seems as if the hardcore surfing population has circled their wagons against nondescript el cheapo surfboards and have a far greater appreciation than, say, 10 or 15 years ago for hand-built, locally designed surfboards. In particular, the trend towards fully finished, beautifully resin-tinted glasswork by a growing number of glass shops has made the surfboard both a work of art again, as well as (finally) worthy of a price tag that lets our domestic craftsman earn a living. The hipster trend, while pretentious and smarmy at times, has nonetheless helped in a big way to restore our cottage industry to its former glory. Bottom line: people really seem to appreciate quality now—and if some of the boards are slabs, at least they are works of art.

Photo: Chamberlain.
What distinguishes your boards?
There are literally hundreds of highly skilled shapers working out there. The level of craftsmanship is very high, and with the CNC machines, very accurate. There are probably far fewer really good designers, but that might not matter since so there are so many verifiably successful board designs that are low-hanging fruit for anyone smart enough to recognize them for what they are and copy them. I ride every sort of surf craft so perhaps I might possess a wider understanding of design than the guy who scrubs out ten 6’1” squash-tail tris every day. I see myself as a designer first and a shaper second. Each surfboard I design and shape is done completely by hand from start to finish—no one else touches the blank until the laminator. And speaking of glassing, a skill I feel is highly underrated is being able to work with glassers in a full partnership and not a push-me/pull-you antagonistic relationship. The surfboard trade is all about crisis management: from the second a customer writes up an order card, their hoped-for surfboard begins deviating from their mental image of the ‘magic board.’ So damage control skills are vital to anyone who can hope to weather the slings and arrows of the trade. I am very lucky to have a stable of a half-dozen or so really first-rate glass shops on tap. That is where the true craftsmanship resides in this trade—the artistry and skill a really terrific glasser brings to a foam sculpture imparts just as much of its value as the shaped-by label.

Thoughts on the current status quo?
Two things come to mind: First, the people I get to build boards for each day have all been a lot of fun to work with and are hardcore surfers who place their surfboards at or near the center of their lives. That’s very satisfying for me. Whatever I build for them has to work; it can’t just be trendy or pretty. Second, I see soooooo many boards or pictures of boards inappropriately and overly finned—biggest offender being quad fins. A hint: Fins are drag until they aren’t….

People can order a board/boards from you by doing what?

Most people contact me through my website ( and/or writing to The order process is designed to be personal and collaborative, with a lot of back-and-forth, working down towards the finest detail.
Photos: Jeff Chamberlain.


LOVECALJERSEYPORKLACE from Michael Kew on Vimeo.
Sam Hammer (NJ) and Trevor Gordon (CA) on twin-finned Piggybacks shaped by Ryan Lovelace.
NJ footage: Carmen Vicari
CA footage: Michael Kew
Song: "Time To Spare" by Pacific Haze (recorded live at Stoke Grove Farm, Ojai, Calif., 8-30-14
© 2014 Peathead Publishing

The Beer Shark

Manzanita Reef, with my 12' Klamath tinnie anchored out the back.
A clean south swell was pleasuring Manzanita Reef, so I anchored my small boat in the channel. The spot was inaccessible by land and essentially unknown, so it was empty.
I watched some nice waves peel through before noticing a few strange things (which really weren’t so strange considering the wilderness location).
The water reeked like dead fish—obviously something was rotting, likely the two sea lions floating upside-down just outside the peak. But they were not dead, because suddenly they righted themselves and swam off, like they’d been spooked. Moments later, dozens of gulls began squawking overhead, circling the baitball that had formed behind me. This was Manzanita’s food chain.
And I was part of it, apparently, because as soon as I stood to slip over the gunwale with my board, something large bumped the bottom of my boat. Cold aluminum didn’t suit the bumper’s taste, so it quickly swished away, affording a classic glimpse of that dreaded dorsal fin, the bane of all sharky-spot surfers.
Right then, a really good set steamed through, head-high and sheet glass, totally inviting, looping down the reef before sputtering into the channel. It could’ve been a rocky, left-hand version of Swami’s on a good day—with no one out.
I felt comfortable paddling away from the boat, as I had done so many times. The wildly unfamiliar was familiar to me: I knew the water’s cold sting, its ominous murk, the reefy hazards and threat of consequence should trouble strike—if I got hurt and couldn’t motor back to the harbor, I was doomed.
I paddled over to the take-off spot and sat up on my board, glancing around for that dorsal fin. The birds and baitball and sea lions were gone, and peace was restored. No worries, I thought, this is sweet. I was alone, scoring at this secret-but-perfect wilderness reef on a weekend while hordes elsehwere were beelining to their favorite Orange County/Santa Cruz/Los Angeles/Bixby Ranch south-swell spots. Good for them, I smirked, inwardly thanking my boat for this session.
About a minute later and 30 feet to my right, a young seal popped its head above water, like they always do, staring blankly, wondering whether you’re some sort of bizarre buoy or a badly deformed elephant seal.
The seal started swimming closer. I didn’t blink or flinch, but I was certainly startled when suddenly a white shark’s head shot from the water and, mouth agape, removed the seal’s head with one clean bite, like it was a Tic-Tac (seal brain flavor), before submerging.
I couldn’t move because I couldn’t believe this was mere meters feet away—a shark mauling a seal. I’d seen it happen before, but from the safety of land. Sitting in the water when it occurred was a completely different deal.
Then there was a loud disruption of water caused by the shark’s reappearance, gnawing into the half-sunken, headless seal. I was soon sitting in water reddened by seal blood, dispersed quickly by the shark’s violent side-to-side motion of its head: much splashing, thrashing, ripping, yellow intestines and chunks of pale blubber flailing about.
Seeing this so up-close was surreal. I might as well have been watching a Discovery Channel “Shark Week” special from the comfort of my couch, Cheez-Its in one hand, Coors in the other.
But the attack ended as abruptly as it had started. The shark ate the seal and left. No birds, no baitfish, nothing. Only a few sinews of guts and a lot of slimy blood. Manzanita was serene once more, my staring-contest-opponent seal now marinating in the shark’s digestive juice. (I’d won by default.)
Of course I was scared, so I got out of there before catching a wave, because once another shark got a whiff of that fresh kill, I could’ve been toast. The waves were good but not worth decapitation.
Back at the harbor, I relayed the incident to a drunk geezer who worked in the tackle shop, emphasizing the part about me not fleeing after the shark bumped my boat.

“You’re real dumb,” he said, handing me a cold can of Coors.

Surfer Suds — Introducing Pure Order, Santa Barbara’s Newest Brewery

James (front) and Dave (back) assisting customers with their beer thirsts.
 Warming his face under the bright afternoon sun of the mid-May heatwave, mustachioed Dave Burge, 27, stands outside the unmarked beige building at 410 North Quarantina Street, in a light-industry sect east of downtown Santa Barbara.
“Basically, this was just a big box with a bunch of stuff in it,” he says, gesturing at the 2,000-square-foot building behind us, adding that, until 2012, a general contractor used it for storage, and that the adjacent lot on the right was a once-vacant, weed-choked square of dirt that he and his cousin, James, have since converted into a picnic-tabled lawn and a 100-plant hop garden.
Dave here is holding a pint of Santa Barbara Pale Ale, taking regular swigs of the fresh brew that he and James created just steps away, where a handful of thirsty patrons imbibe near the bar that is made from local wood.
 “We often say that the third biggest part of the brewery, other than James and me, is Santa Barbara—that being its surf culture, its art culture, its music scene. These are all things that play a big part in our lives and in how we operate and run the business.” He takes a swig of beer and swallows it with a smile. “It’s just the two of us for now—we do just about everything.”
In 2011, after many years of homebrewing, James, 30, decided to launch Pure Order Brewing Company, today a microbrewery in the truest sense, featuring a humble 15-barrel brewing system (producing 1,755 liters of beer per batch—about 3,700 pints) with which he creates tasty, smooth styles like Crooked Neck Hefeweizen, Red Eye Wheat, and Black Gull Porter.
James named the brewery after Reinheitsgebot (“purity order”), the German beer law, written in 1516, that mandated the sole ingredients in beer production were to be water, barley, and hops. (Yeast was not mentioned because it would be another 300 years before French chemist Louis Pasteur discovered the role of microorganisms in fermentation; hence, yeast was not known as a beer ingredient.)
“Surfing is the purest form of a sport—you’re one with Mother Nature—and we like our beer to be as pure as it can possibly be,” James says, after joining Dave and me outside. “We’re going to keep it to four ingredients, and live or die by that.”
Pure Order's prolific hop garden and part of the lawn leisure area.
With its grand opening on March 15, three years after the cousins’ first “board meeting” (actually on surfboards out at Rincon), Pure Order is the fifth and newest of Santa Barbara’s breweries—and with a niche.
“As for setting ourselves apart from the other breweries as far as the surf community here goes,” James says, before heading back inside to pour pints for customers,” we’ve had lots of talks about marketing for the Rincon Classic, and we’ve talked with Matt Moore about getting in with him and doing collaborations of a different sort. Stuff like that. The fact that we surf has a lot to do with our beers. They are very California-centric, Santa Barbara-centric.”
While James grew up in Pasadena, frequenting the waves at County Line, he now lives in San Roque, and for his entire life has surfed Rincon and other spots in the 805. Conversely, Dave is a lifelong Santa Barbara resident, a 2005 graduate of Santa Barbara High who caught his first wave at Rincon when he was four.
“Surfing is such a big part of our lives,” Dave says. “We have plans to do some things here and there for the surf community in terms of philanthropy and that sort of stuff. We’re trying to bring good, new beer into the Santa Barbara area, and in doing so, trickle out to the best surf spots. Our families own a few homes down on the point at Rincon, and that’s where we grew up riding waves. The best times we’ve spent together have always involved the ocean.”
And so the Queen of the Coast, in more ways than one, has birthed another special Santa Barbara enterprise.
“Surfing is such a big part of who we are,” Dave says, finishing his pint, “so it naturally infuses itself into Pure Order, certainly through James’s creativity with our beers. If you’re an artist, I’d imagine that waves pop up in a lot of your art. As surfers like James and I are, waves pop up in our beers.”

Pure Order Brewing Co., 410 N. Quarantina Street in Santa Barbara, 805-966-2881; tasting room hours: Friday 4-7 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, noon-7 p.m.; @pureorderbrewco