#The Simplicity of Cyrus Sutton, 10:33 A.M. – 12:11 P.M., Holy Saturday

{This story was originally published in 2013 in Slide magazine.}

You may know of this subject.

He’s created four surf films, soon five. In 2006, he split an Emmy for another.

His commercial work is praised.

Korduroy.tv, which he launched in 2009 and still lords over, has produced more than 400 shows for public view.

At 18, he was a professional longboarder. At 30, he is a professional freesurfer.

He has many interests beyond surfing.

He lives in a van.

 

#Words and Van Photos By Michael Kew

#Surfing Photos Courtesy of Dylan Gordon/Terasu

 

 

#If only the yogi had surfed.

“Swami’s”—an eponym. The longhaired yogi had no clue about its fine rights. Lefts, sometimes. The lineup was bare. Tranquil. Spiritual.

For him.

‘Til death, if he’d wanted.

In 1937, the land facing Swami’s Reef in Encinitas was a prime knuckle of sandstone. Paramahansa Yogananda built a hermitage. The expat Indian lived there in serenity, gazing out over vast brown kelp beds and the blue, softly-seabreezed Pacific, so mild in that Southern California way, while he taught scientific forms of meditation, energization, and concentration, urging folks to grok an intimate rapport with God. Yogananda called it the Self-Realization Fellowship and it became a worldwide clique.

The surf below his retreat was best in winter. Nobody knew or cared. Mass surf-realization was years off. But since 1952, when Yogananda died, many thousands of people have surfed Swami’s. They still do, even today, this sunny morn before Easter, when lousy little waves dribble to shore.

Here, Yogananda was onto something. His soul was fed by nature. It bathed him. Globally, his peregrinations touched millions.

Yogananda has been dead twice the number of years Cyrus Sutton has been living.

Fullerton first. “My dad was a landscape architect and professor of landscape architecture at Cal Poly Pomona. Fullerton was directly between his favorite local mountains, where he liked to hang out, and the surf spots of Orange County.”

Seal Beach next. “You can talk about East Coast surfers being really stoked and really pure. It’s the same in Seal Beach. The waves aren’t that good, and there isn’t as much to be jaded about. When it’s on, everybody is just frothing. I like that. I know personally that that brought that out in me when I was really aspiring for something more.”

Cardiff later—he lived in the back of Rob Machado’s house. Then La Jolla, right above Big Rock. Then back to Orange County in his van. Encinitas now. “But I’ve had enough of Southern California at this stage of my life.”

Matter-of-fact. No hint of sour.

We’re sitting atop new sub-floor plywood storage compartments in the bare rear of Sutton’s white 2003 Ford E-250. It is parked in the dusty dirt off San Elijo Avenue, overlooking a busy Coast Highway 101, Swami’s, guardrails, railroad track, kelp beds, native shrubs, and Yogananda’s iconic digs. Humanity floods the scene. The sky is vast and clear, the Pacific a rich cerulean, textured by a soft west wind. A fine day of seasonal spring hue.

We’d hoped to surf. We’d also planned to park this van in the small Swami’s lot, because Cyrus is renting a room in an old house nearby, and, because, raised in Encinitas, I’d spent my youth surfing over that reef. But all 40 spaces were taken, mostly (or all) by the joggers and dog-walkers and baby-pushers who’d left cars there.

“Southern California is based on a road-traveling infrastructure,” Sutton tells me. He’s picking at something on his arm. “Every amenity that’s necessary for man is roadside. You can get every single thing you need, the most efficient way possible, being on the road. This is the most efficient way for me to get all my work done and stay healthy and stay stoked. Stay creative.”

Sutton is wearing a plain black T-shirt and his Reef signature Cy Stripe boardshorts. On his feet are black, green-soled Reef Rodeo Flip sandals that look to be one size too big. To his right hangs a small, black-handled broom. Five times during our chat, he uses it to lightly sweep the floor around his feet. He’s not really sweeping, because the faux oak flooring looks clean. Once, he sweeps the bottoms of his Rodeo Flip sandals.

“I have a really hard time making this van dirty. Everything is wood and nothing is carpet because if I try to throw shit in here and drive, it’s gonna slide around and it’s gonna be all sketchy. So I’m constantly having to pick up after myself. I used to have open shelves that said, ‘Throw stuff in me and never come back.’ Cluttered my van. So I’ve designed it to make the most use of space and keep it self-cleaning.”

He designed this new interior using Adobe Illustrator and employed skilled friends to help bang it all out. Tomorrow he’s going to spraypaint the van’s exterior for a more grounded look. Something greeny. Or brownish. Maybe both. Camo?

“I had to get rid of a bunch of my stuff.”

Liberating, eh?

“Super liberating.” He shakes his head. “The biggest challenge we all have is getting rid of shit. Our belongings consume us. The more shit you have? Spiritually and mentally, you’re slower. I’m obsessed with simplicity. Simplifying my life.”

 

“Every tomorrow is determined by every today.” Paramahansa Yogananda

 

#The E-250 once belonged to an overworked electrician.

“I got it when it was a couple of years old. I was at a point where I didn’t want to live with my parents in Seal Beach, but I couldn’t afford rent. I made my first surf film, ‘Riding Waves,’ and that made me quite a bit of money. I took off around the world, bought 16mm gear, and shot a bunch of stuff. Spent all my money. I came back and was back at my parents’ and I thought: ‘This sucks.’ So I moved into the van, put a bed in the back—just a really simple piece of wood—and since then, I’ve transitioned into living down here more. It’s been about six years now.”

Flanked by the highway and railroad tracks on one side, San Elijo Avenue on the other, our setting is loud—constant cars, flatulent Harleys, chatty walkers, horn-blaring trains—so the van’s sliding door is left just slightly ajar. It’s too warm. I sweat. A perfect beach day out there. But in here, Sutton and his 5’6” John Wesley TwinFinPin—the one board he brought today—will stay dry.

“That board is insane,” Sutton says, pointing to where it’s stashed behind the clear Plexiglas panel of the van’s portside sub-floor space. The top of the compartment is used as a guest sleeping area, a counter space, and a cook space for his red camping stove. Behind the driver’s seat, the end of the compartment contains a trash can and a five-gallon propane tank. Two white onions lie at the bottom of an orange mesh basket that hangs above the other end, left of Sutton’s head. No other foodstuffs are visible. Soon, the compartments will be stocked.

“Sleeping on wheels has always felt like home. The funnest times of my life were spent sleeping in the back of my dad’s Volkswagen bus, driving up to the Sierras and smelling the sage when you drive into the high desert.

“There’s something about getting out off this thing we live in in Southern California. I think we can all feel it. It’s just this, like, HOO-WO-HA. [arms move from his head out and down, like compression] Being a pretty driven person, I get affected [jabs fingers together] by all the energy. I get excited [raises and pumps fists] but it also binds me in a lot of ways. Going out and hiking and not being around cell phone signals and all that stuff. And that’s true, man. There are cosmic people out there who are afraid that we’re getting bombarded with ozone radiation all the time, or whatever. I’m not on that end of the spectrum, but I know if I go down to Mexico for a surf trip, if I’ve been working on a lot of projects here, the first four or five days that I’m down there, I will sleep 13 to 14 hours a day. It’s because there’s no energy going through my body. I get to sleep. I come back here and I can’t sleep. I’m just wired. Maybe I have nothing on my plate that week. But there is a current running through the city that affects us. This (van) just allows me to get outside of it and to do it really efficiently.”

Next weekend, Sutton will fly to Tahiti for a Reef team shoot. After that, he will spend two or three months in the E-250, absorbing and capturing the fabric of his surroundings, wherever they be, his movements fueled by…fuel. The result will be distilled and packaged as “Compass_ing,” freely viewable to you online.

Got a loose itinerary, Cy?

“Nah. Wherever. I’ll look at the swell forecasts and just go. I haven’t really decided. That’s what I’m excited about.”

And from there?

“I have certain aims of living in a society or a community that, based on resources and geographics, may or may not be based in Southern California. [loud motorcycle passes by] The end goal for me is to be more connected with the local things that are going on and all of that is purpose-built. Recently I read ‘Imagined Communities,’ a book which postulates that anything other than your local town—any belonging that you have to other people other than people you deal with on a day-to-day basis for your survival—is imaginary. [waves a hand in the air] The whole Internet is fuckin’ imaginary. [becomes animated, puts left hand on chest] ‘I pledge allegiance to the flag,’ all this hoopla that they pound [pounds fists together] into us because, based on human nature, we don’t have that loyalty to that big of a place. On a very basic level, we just have loyalty to those around us who we need, who we rely on to eat every day and to procreate. That’s about it. Just getting back and letting go of all these imaginary ideas of ourselves and popularity on this grand scale, trying to get thousands of….”

‘Likes’ and views?

“I didn’t say that. [laughs] Because, for me, that’s a means to an end. That’s part of my career right now. That’s part of the reason I get a paycheck. That’s not what I’m about, though. That’s not really what I want.”

What do you want?

“I want enough ‘likes’ and views to support myself and my family, so maybe 20? That’s all we need. I don’t think we need more than 20 ‘likes’ and views.

During our chat, the E-250 is photographed by an outside passerby, who posts the image to Instagram and Facebook.

Have you seen Cyrus? @cyrussutton #cyrussighting @korduroytv

Minutes later, Sutton sees it on his phone. He smirks.

“That’s funny.”

The photo receives 42 ‘likes’ and no comments. On Facebook, 13 people ‘like’ it. One comment: “No but if i see that hillbilly creeper van in my hood i'm callin the cops!” This comment is ‘liked’ by one person.

Sutton and I have 403 mutual Facebook friends. Which moves me to ask: What has all this friending and hashtagging and blogging done to surf culture?

[Long pause. Stares straight ahead, loose-jawed, absent-mindedly fidgets with the top rung of the onion basket] “People who refine a viewpoint and have a story to tell are always going to rise to the top. I have a lot of sympathy for artists who are trying to make it now. I always tell any person who is struggling with the media side of surfing, or the global web side that I’m involved in, to just get more local. What is it about yourself that makes you feel that you need to be a part of the big global scene? Why not just spend more time with the farmers in your local community, or figure out something that you can make and trade? Be more rooted in your local scene, because as someone like me, who has been embraced by the global community, I can tell you that it’s no more fulfilling. I’m there. I’m in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and I’m rolling around in the gold coins, and I’m telling you that the gold ain’t real. I can’t eat the gold.”

 

“Remain calm, serene, always in command of yourself. You will then find out how easy it is to get along.”  P.Y.

 

#What’s fun about Cyrus Sutton? He’s silent for 12 seconds after I ask. It’s a strange question since, to you, his life rotates around all that’s fun.

Drinking beer?

“Beer’s fun.”

But, ultimately, Sutton dislikes beer. That’s not fun at all, is it?

He doesn’t drink much.

Smartly fun, sometimes, though he does like tequila. “I drank probably a bottle of tequila a week while I was working on this van. Alcohol can be a real fuel. It allows you to be outside and work and stay warm and have this constant energy to do stuff on a real mellow level. I’ll take a sip of tequila and hold it in my mouth for a while, letting it get warm. I’m not pounding it to inebriate myself so I can go talk to some girl and it’s less awkward.”

Vaguely fun.

He likes to fish. “I grew up fly-fishing in small creeks in the Eastern Sierras. It’s like hunting, because with creeks, you have to learn how to read the different currents, and if your line gets caught in the wrong place, you’re going to have drag in your fly and the fish will be able to see it and you won’t outsmart it and it’s not going to go for your fly. You move up the stream and every bend is a new challenge. And every bend changes, depending on the time of year and how much water is flowing through it, so it’s kind of like surfing in that nothing’s ever the same, but you’re traversing territory, trying to ultimately get a fish.”

Categorically fun.

He likes to get scared. “Getting out there to the point where you get outside of your safety net—you break down somewhere, anything that happens—there’s this thrill of being alive that we’ve always felt as humans. It makes me feel grateful about my life.”

Not particularly fun, but true.

Is media fun?

“You can’t eat media. You can’t grow media. [sweeps broom a little to the right] It’s fake, basically. All media is artistic expression. What blew my mind was looking up the word ‘aesthetics.’ [hangs broom back on hook] Basically, it’s the creation of physical objects which evoke an emotional or spiritual response. So it’s art. But aesthetics were treated very gingerly by most ancient cultures because they realized that it was not directly contributory to the sustainment of that culture. It’s not growing food, it’s not building infrastructure, it’s not feeding cattle, [talks faster] the basic shit that everybody used to have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. The people who were able to create art—whether it was literature or paintings or whatever—they either had to be immersed in a religion and do it in a mastical context, or they had to be sort of an older, wiser person, considered wise within their tribe or community or city-state, or whatever it was, to be able to practice it. Otherwise, the society simply didn’t support it.

“Nowadays, most of the ways that we gain support for doing media is through commercial endeavors, so we’re participating in marketing. The marketing is the creation of ideas and, at the base level of everything, we’re trying to create visual and auditory expressions which evoke a love response. The love response is an interesting response because when people fall in love with anything, dopamine is released into their brains, and the ability for cognitive reason goes down—it becomes suppressed—because, on an evolutionary level, we want to procreate. That’s what all commercials and marketing are based on—evoking love—so you can then associate some kind of product or something that you probably really don’t need and probably isn’t really going to last very long. [removes broom from hook]

 “It would be awesome if everybody got famous, if everybody on Instagram got their 15 minutes of fame, and then we all got over it. We didn’t hold anybody on a pedestal because of what we saw in a magazine or in a movie. We treated each other normally. When you treat someone specially because of what you’ve seen, it’s kind of a pain in the ass to treat them specially, and then the person who’s treated specially, it doesn’t feel good to be treated specially for no reason either. [Almost frowns. Shakes head briefly] It doesn’t really feel that good, so why do we do it? Let’s just not do it. Let’s just figure out stuff we can do together.”

 

#Together, commissioned by some Basque folks in Spain, he’s crafted a short flick about the Basque diaspora. It may be titled “Homeland.” To aid the research, he flew to Spain with Ryan Burch (“He’s the pure surfer we all want to be.”) and fellow van-dweller Foster Huntington. Together, they surfed large Mundaka. Sutton is making a short film about that, too.

In the past six years, he’s worked with his cousin to make a rock-climbing doco, together tracing families that live in Yosemite Valley, balancing an inherently dangerous activity with the responsibilities of being family members. “The mountain culture—people who are climbers or hikers or camping in general—is pretty straight. There’s such a reverence for the outdoors. There doesn’t need to be this whole ‘Look at me, I’m into myself and what I’m wearing and what I’m drawing and what I’m listening to’ kind of vibe. This ‘hip’ vibe, this ‘scene’ vibe.”

What do you mean?

“People who hang out together and they feed on the collective vibe of who they are. They get positive reinforcement by a momentum that they’re creating, which is great, because a lot of the momentum they’re creating is because of hard work they’ve done—creativity and passion and talent. [gets more animated; grips broom] If I do a web edit and it’s really something I’m proud of, and I feel like I did it to the best of my ability and it conveys what I want to convey, nine times out of 10, I will not then go down the street and hang out for a week in my hometown and talk to people and wait for them to tell me that they saw it, or talk about it. I will, nine times out of 10, go to the mountains by myself and go hiking.

“It’s like ‘The Crying Game’ every time after I make something that I was really passionate about. I have to take a cold shower, in a way. Hiking is that cold shower, or going on long paddles and not talking to people and just feeling the elements of nature. Because a lot of media is marketing, and that’s what we’re all participating in. (hangs broom back up)

Is that good, then?

 “You need to really get in touch with yourself and be egocentric when you make art, and the hiking thing and being away from people brings me back to reality and brings me into a space where I can create something that isn’t about the result. Good art is not about the result and the response that you get. It’s about doing the act itself. That’s what the scene bleeds me from. It’s all about the laurels and the results and reinforcement for people. I would rather save my time and energy to be a part of something that is a community of people based in function instead of fashion.”

 

“Live quietly in the moment and see the beauty of all before you. The future will take care of itself.” P.Y.

 

#There is no real set route, no end, no mash of the gas pedal toward the proverbial sunset. With his current and previous work, Sutton has proven himself.

To himself.

He thinks so.

“All my other projects have literally changed who I am to birth that project. Now I have the values down that I really enjoy and appreciate, and I’m going to continue to carry on in that direction and be productive. [starts sweeping the van floor while still sitting]

“There are always certain people who do something in their lives, and then the greater scene thinks that that’s cool, and they’re able to make a little money from that coolness for a short amount of time until they’re not considered cool again. I guess I would be put in that realm. The realm of, ‘This is who I am and this is what I’ve done.’ It’s been really embraced as being really cool, and I’m able to surf more and not have to work as much because of that. So I’m very grateful.”

Many thousands of people love what you do. Does this translate into being a pillar of the greater scene?

“I’m not really part of the scene. I touch the scene sometimes and I think,Oh, that doesn’t feel very good,’ so I go back to just doing my own thing. [holding broom brush-end up, picks at it] The interesting thing about when I’ve been around scenes, and people who are in scenes, is there’s a lot of collective energy created that is socially based: ‘I’m hanging with this person, who is this and that, and it makes me feel good about myself and what I’m doing. It gives me reason and it gives me purpose instead of trying to find it on my own.’ That’s always been problematic for me in the long term because I was brought up by teachers and people who challenged me from a young age: ‘Okay, but don’t be indulgent here,’ they’d say. ‘You can think and say certain things, but what’s it’s greater purpose? What’s your contribution going to be to something larger than yourself, based on your experience and your feelings right now?’

“Nobody in the scenes that I’ve dipped into and out of have ever really been coming up with ideas and things that really changing the culture. It’s more just this self-adoration of themselves. Some scenes aren’t like that. Revolutionary Russia was a scene of people in town squares talking about communism, and they changed things. They changed the world for better or worse. The Occupy movement, for better or worse, did affect culture a lot. But surfing scenes are kind of…what is there to really talk about anymore? We like to hang out. We like the sun. We like to surf.

“I’m not going to grow as a person by being in Southern California and being in scenes. I’ve found that, as I get marketed as being somebody who is ‘cool,’ and more people are attracted to me and want to hang out and want to include me in their scene and all of these things, that I looked at it and I’ve partaken in the scene for a day or two, and it always ends up being: ‘Okay, this is great, and I really respect and am thankful that you are including me in your scene, but it’s not my path.’ My path is to change myself.”

Regressing Forward is his new personal blog. A Tumblr. On it, Sutton’s bio: “A student of ‘the good life.’”

Why the name?

“Because that’s what I’m doing. At the end of the day, what do we really want? I want to be content and I want to be happy. When I was 19, I saw the purest expression of contentment and happiness in what some would consider absolute squalor in Samoa, and therefore, to a lot of people, that’s regressing. A regression of civilization and being civilized, yet I feel like they’re moving forward and they’re ahead of the game. Regressing forward means going back to the basics to go forward. I feel like we’ve reached a point where a lot of the ‘progress’ is leading into dead ends, so you need to regress. You need to do a U-turn to go forward. Back up a little bit. Take a survey of the scene. Say, ‘Okay, I’m walking into a wall here, but right next to the wall is an open path, and I need to walk back a little bit to see it.’ It’s nothing revolutionary. It’s an excuse for me to take photos.”

What about Korduroy?

“We’re starting to shape more of what we’re doing into a unified message. We’ve always been about functionality over fashion, but you can take people on a journey within that more instead of scrambling every week, or twice a week, to pump out something new for the sake of having something new. I want to make everything we do to have a purpose behind it.

“This is my own life, you know? [smiles] I want to scramble less and have more of a purpose.”

 

#It is time to go. My afternoon will be spent drinking ale at Green Flash Brewing Company, 16 miles south. Sutton might head east for a hike, maybe somewhere out in Poway. Healthy and mind-cleansing. But first: a photo.

He slips across the street and uses his phone to snap an image identical to the one the bypasser had Instagrammed. Sutton somehow adds three color squares below the image and uploads it to @cyrus_sutton, where 9,740 people “follow” him.

It needs new paint. Found spray paint in these colors. Which one?

On Instagram, the photo receives 409 ‘likes’ and 110 comments. On Facebook: 83 ‘likes’ and 54 comments.

Then, after two half-days and 12 cans of paint, it is done. Camo with black wheels and base. The E-250 looks military-issue. It looks great. Sutton posts a new photo—this one with iPhone contrast and vignetting—from our same location on San Elijo Avenue. Instagram: 600 ‘likes’ and 39 comments. Facebook: 162 ‘likes’, 17 comments, one ‘share.’

Swami’s remains flat. Paramahansa Yogananda remains dead.

“Be as simple as you can be. You will be astonished to see how uncomplicated and happy your life can become.”

Green: The Old Red


“EXPECT ANOTHER ROUND OF STORM-FORCE WINDS, WITH HURRICANE-FORCE GUSTS POSSIBLE, ESPECIALLY IN THE VICINITY OF CAPE BLANCO. THIS WILL BE A VERY STRONG STORM. MARITIME AND COASTAL INTERESTS SHOULD TAKE ALL PRECAUTIONS NECESSARY TO PRESERVE LIFE AND PROPERTY.”

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.

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 (nowtro.com) and/or writing to dave@nowtro.com. 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.





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.
What?
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.

pureorderbrewing.com; @pureorderbrewco

Farming Malloyland — At Stoke Grove, the 'Duce Rules.

Wiley Connell (left) and Chris Everett, harvesting red Russian kale.

“Having a bunch of dirty-ass surf bums hanging out all day, growing fat-ass veggies? It takes a special sort of landowner to be down with that.” (laughs)
Shaggy-blond and goateed Wiley Connell, 24, is referring to pro surfer Dan Malloy and his wife, Grace, who own the 2.5 acres called Stoke Grove Farm off this quiet, dead-end street in Meiners Oaks, a burg of 3,500 in the heart of the Ojai Valley, 70 miles north of Los Angeles. In its previous life, the dirt beneath us fostered an orchard, which morphed into a petting zoo that included Bengal tigers. In 2012, a dentist sold the land to the Malloys, who leased it to Wiley, this morning in a blue Clark Foam shirt, work boots, and boardshorts.
“Dan and Grace are so fired up about farming and are so supportive,” he tells me, “but, at the same time, they really know what’s cool and are very relaxed about everything here.”
It is 10:57 a.m. One hour ago, 2014’s spring equinox occurred. Connell and Chris Everett, 25, stand by an oak tree near a small duck pond. They’ve been harvesting since 8 a.m. On the farm, Everett is Connell’s right-hand man, a head of dense facial hair framed by nipple-length blond dreads. A talented guitarist and vocalist in Pleasure (a local rock band that, thanks to friend Connor Coffin, recently recorded at Hurley—Pleasure will perform live at the U.S. Open), today Everett wears ripped jeans, a green trucker hat, sandals, and a paisley button-up he found in the antique store that once employed him. Workwear? Only at Stoke Grove.
The two friends begin washing oranges and grapefruits in a large plastic barrel, the yellow and orange orbs floating in freshwater, ever-precious after California’s winter of severe drought.
“Since spring is here, things are really restarting,” Connell says. “Our field is looking glorious after a crazy winter—hardly any rain.” He scratches his tan forehead and points to the field’s fallow east end, a deliberate rectangle of weeds. “In Wiley’s world, all that should be waist-high by now. Winter is a time of rest and you’re just chilling, for the most part, but then spring comes and the wheels start to turn non-stop. In winter, everything grows slowly because there’s not much light, and it’s cold, there are tons of aphids, the ground is as hard as a basketball court. It’s a time to just sleep and surf.” (laughs)
Since its inception in early 2013, Everett, who grew up surfing with Wiley, has been deeply involved with Stoke Grove. “I always knew it was Wiley’s dream to have a farm of his own,” he says, rinsing lettuce, “and as soon as he talked about starting Stoke Grove, I was amped to help him. I got myself fired from my job (serving beer at Island Brewing Co. in Carpinteria) and have since been working under him and his expertise. It’s been a blast—some of the happiest times of my life, for sure.”
Around the wet, knee-high wooden platform behind him and Connell, three of Stoke Grove’s volunteer harvesters are boxing a colorful mix of rainbow chard, carrots, fennel, Chioggia beets, oranges, grapefruits, two types of kale, three types of lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and celery. In an hour or so, the boxes will be driven to members of Stoke Grove’s CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture), a popular program in which the public buys food directly from those who make it.
“This ‘duce (produce) fires people up, and since we’re around it and we grow it, we get to be a part of that process,” Connell says, dropping grapefruits into the boxes. “People freak out when they eat the ‘duce, but they also freak out because the vibe has been brought. And also doing things in unison with the earth and the way the earth does it, but at the same time, being functional within society.” (laughs)
“Which is kind of hard sometimes,” Everett says, also with a laugh.
“What’s the overall Stoke Grove mantra?” I ask them.
“To have a good time,” Wiley says, nodding. “Yeah.”
“For sure,” Chris says, shaking water from a purple head of lettuce. “Uphold the vibe and stoke people out with some good ‘duce, man. Soak up the sun all day. Be out there in the rows, vibing with the plants.”
“Do what’s right, you know?” Wiley says.
“What is right?” I ask.

He hands me a carrot, pulled from the soil 15 minutes ago. I take a bite and chew. Ah, yes—this is exactly right.

Almost Asked Four Questions.

Simon Murdoch, one of the film's stars.

PEATHEAD: What is “Almost Cut My Hair” and why might we care?
RYAN LOVELACE: It started as a project to compile all of the footage I’ve gathered and shot over the years into something concrete. But then word got out and people started to get excited and wanted to send me footage they had stashed or had just gotten the week before. So, pretty quickly, it turned from my project into 'our' project, something that involved a lot of people I've met. Everything in the movie comes back to a relationship I have with someone—a band, a photographer, a surfer, a surfboard—and it’s taken me eight years of work to build those relationships through my boards.

Crafting Trevor's orange ThrougHull for Lakshadweep.
Discuss the film’s shapes.
It’s just a handful of them throughout. Some sections were filmed years apart with a different person on the same board. For instance, there is a 5'3” t.Rev, which I originally made for you, and it was was handed over to Trevor Gordon to surf in Lakshadweep. Later, he surfed it for a while back home. Aubrey Falk also had a go with it. Then it got into the hands of Simon Murdoch, who surfs it beautifully. Other main boards in the movie are Trevor’s 5'10" Piggyback, a high-performance twinnie shortboard, orange with a little swallow tail. (Earlier in the film, there is a lavender version of the same board, which was the first version of the Piggyback model.) Troy Mothershead rides an 8’0” pintail v.Bowls at home and in the Bali section. Trevor rides the same board in the after-credits section. That board now belongs to me, and we are in heaven. The Rabbits Foot that Ryan Burch rode was a mistake. I was shaping it for a regularfooter and realized a few hours later that I had made it backwards, so I called Burch and told him he had a new board. I drove it down to him and filmed him on it for two sessions at Seaside Reef. The Rabbits Foot ridden by Ari Browne was taken with me to Australia in 2012; a friend of mine told me a friend of his wanted to ride it in the finless division of the longboard festival, so I said ‘sure.’ He grabbed it, said it made total sense, then went out and rode it like they were born together. The footage was shot during a three-month road trip from San Diego to El Salvador with his brother and a few friends. The orange hull that Trevor rode in Lakshadweep was made specifically for that trip and that wave. He wanted to ride it as an alternative in case the surf wasn't pumping, so the days prior to the swell picking up, that footage was shot of him enjoying some smaller waves and some fun closeout sections.

What's behind the film name?
Lovelace making a Rabbit's Foot.
I had the film about halfway done before I named it. I was editing the footage of Trevor at Rincon on the Piggyback and needed to put some music on so I could watch the waves together and feel it out as a whole. I decided to play “Almost Cut My Hair” (from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà Vu album), easily the most important and overreaching song in my life because it’s always nice to listen to. The second it started, I knew no other song would do, and that the movie's name was there without question. “Almost Cut My Hair” is (to me) about not cutting yourself short, to know that things are going to be hard, but to trust yourself in knowing the right path and following it. In doing so, you can never fail. The song has come to me many times in the past and has driven three of the most significant decisions in my life. The attitude alone has guided me numerous times, and I owe a lot of where I am now to the messages within the song. It felt nothing short of perfect to name such a personal film, and I know David Crosby would approve!

Cyrus__ing.

Last weekend I was hanging with Cyrus Sutton, who, as you may know, is poised to create a short film to be dropped online for free in August.
   "The tagline of it is: 'An innerworldly surf adventure to find freedom,'" he told me. "It’s basically going to be a fantasy surf film in which I drive north to find waves and end up going into the North Pole and going into the center of the Earth and surfing.
   "Do you have any sort of itinerary for the van trip?" I asked.
   "Nah. Wherever. I’ll look at the swell forecasts and just go. I haven’t really decided yet. That’s kind of what I’m excited about."
Compass_ing Teaser from Cyrus Sutton on Vimeo.

Stay tuned.

Troy Mothershead — A Jack Of All Boards.


You may have seen the cheshire-cat grin and flawless hair of Troy Mothershead, 25, as he shreds and/or flows on many sorts of surfcraft in the Tri Counties zone. Now is as good a time as any to get to know the funny man in the shiny Nineplus wetsuit.

PEATHEAD: Who is Troy Mothershead?
TROY MOTHERSHEAD: A loud guy, and a bit of a character, but he’s mostly enjoyable and will do his best to enjoy you. He usually rocks up in a Hawaiian shirt and a pair of pants which may not fit properly, depending on how successful he was at hemming them. Raised in a world of competition and longboard roundhouses, he’s understanding the true beauty and freedom of surfing anything propulsive. The joy of the Lord is his strength, and he mainly loves riding waves because it offers one of the raddest forms of connecting to the Creator. He prefers long righthand pointbreaks, where all lengths, widths, and shapes are catered for. Beer is a four letter word, and Troy enjoys it. In fact, he has recently brewed a black IPA. He’s climbed the Royal Arches in Yosemite, but would not claim himself a climber. Although his mother thinks he’s lactose intolerant, he loves ice cream. He might just love football more than surfing, but considering his size, surfing was a more enticing pursuit.

Three years ago, Troy was in the running for Orange County Surfer of the Year. What happened?
He couldn’t put the phone down. Ad agencies across the nation were calling. He graced the cover of People magazine and nearly grossed $3 million that year. Troy dined with Hollywood’s finest, and even dated Katie Perry for a bit. Actually, he lost. Joe Motion won. Troy cried. Most of his votes came through his grandma’s book club, so maybe he won in spirit.

How did he end up living in the 805?
Patagonia was nice enough to employ Troy as an accountant right out of college. A friend of his was living in Summerland, who graciously became Troy’s roommate, and he lived there for a year. Great place, awesome commute, but the changing job sites and approaching marriage of said roommate caused Troy the current convenience of living in Ventura. He is on a pull-out couch in Pierpont residing with Holga enthusiast Ryan “Mustache” Murphy and photographer Justin Bastien, who exclusively eats at Farmer and the Cook and Mary’s Secret Garden. Originally from San Clemente, Troy really enjoys it here — fun waves, great surfers, cultural diversity, a little more edge, a little less People magazine.

How is Troy digging the hand-shaped masterpieces of Ryan Lovelace?
It’s an honor to call Ryan a friend. He’s a great dude. Troy has learned a lot, and appreciates Ryan's enthusiasm for surfboard-making and surfing as a whole. Adding a few of his boards to Troy's quiver has made a big impact on the way he approaches a wave. Troy owes most of his current surf enjoyment to Ryan. The v.Bowls and Piggyback are radical surfcraft. Troy had the privilege of traveling with Mr. Lovelace to Bali a few months back. They met up with Deus Ex Machina in Canggu. Ryan plowed through some foam and Troy did his best to ride what Ryan had created. He lucked into a solo session at steamrolling Temples riding a 6’3" bonzer Ryan built. Troy had never in his life gone so fast nor experienced such thrilling drive off the bottom. He did his best to ingrain each wave to memory. Ryan is currently working on a $0-budget surf movie called Almost Cut My Hair. Troy is jazzed to be a part of it. The preliminary work looks awesome.

Describe Troy’s overall ruling mantra about surfing and what it means to be one around here.
Surfing is a wild thing. Bear with him, but Troy will argue that it’s the most connected human activity to nature in the world. You need an ocean, wind, swell, properly structured sea floor, maybe a beach, maybe a board, strength, balance, wave knowledge, reactionary movement, and all of those things have a few hundred variables among them. The other great thing is there are so many approaches and styles. The real bummer about surfing is that it fuels selfishness. You’re always searching for the best wave and often get trapped dogging people, sneaking around a person or two, and cursing set-wave riders. It’s especially easy for that to happen at a spot like Rincon. Troy doesn’t like that. Surfing needs to be more about fueling the stoke, the love, the enjoyment of being in such an epic environment. It should be shared. And so, he is struggling, but really trying to take that approach when he enters the water. Troy thinks guys like the Gudauskas brothers and Ryan Burch have figured it out, so he’s taking notes.

What’s next for Troy Mothershead?
It seems as though he just wants to have a good time. It’s easy to get caught up in the world, the attempts at exposure, the glamour of fame, but at the end of the day, Troy wants surfing to be about the experience, and simply fun. His hope is to head to El Salvador with his cousin in May and also attend the Deus Ex Machina 9 Feet and Single event in Bali in June. You can find him at around noon, on most weekdays, surfing the inside cove of C Street, and, if swell permits, joining the crowds of Rincon in the evenings and on weekends. He will continue to pursue whatever it is that fuels, strokes, ignites, and promotes the stoke of wave sliding, following adventures when able and sharing good times at all times.



Questions For Ocean Minded's Bob Tanner.


(All surf photos are Ocean Minded ambassador Daniel Jones; photos by Peathead)

PEATHEAD: What makes Ocean Minded a "green" company? 
BOB TANNER: As I've stated before in the media, I actually go out of my way to let people know we are NOT a 'green company', and encourage our employees to do the same, since we are far from it and aren't about to 'claim it' - it never even crosses our mind.  First and foremost, we are a footwear, apparel and accessories company.  We like to think of ourselves as 'capitalists with a conscience' because we do try our best to incorporate recycled and sustainable materials into our products whenever possible and we back up these initiatives with a well-established environmental clean–up program, that was born with the brand in 1996 on the beaches of San Clemente, CA.

How do your products stand out from others in the industry?
One of the key points of differentiation for Ocean Minded, in a very crowded marketplace, is our use of Croslite™ material in the footbeds of our closed-toe shoes for both men and women.  Croslite™ material is a proprietary, revolutionary technology that gives each pair of shoes the soft, comfortable, lightweight and odor-resistant qualities that our customers have come to know us for.  Our sandals are known for being durable, 'on design', and for NOT having a 'break-in' period, which provides instant comfort and support.  Our unique Waveseeker slip-on shoe collection for men and women features a minimally stitched upper made from quick-drying, water-friendly, stretchy polyester that acts like 'boardshorts for your feet'.

Do you choose your surf ambassadors based on any sort of "green" guidelines/criteria?
We've spent quite a bit of time getting our Brand Ambassador program to where it is now, and I think the common thread that runs through all of them is that they are all personally vested in the ocean, and aren't just putting one of our team stickers on their board – they've all chosen to take an 'ownership' position, as it relates to their chosen playground.     While there's no 'official' guideline, we know none of our Ambassadors are afraid to get their hands dirty at a beach clean-up and it's a safe bet that if they are getting out of the water and see a piece of trash, they're going to be the one who bends down to pick it up – it's who they are as human beings and it's why they are a good match for our brand.  Within our industry,  I think Ocean Minded is somewhat unique in that we're less concerned with how well someone 'performs' at his/her specific discipline than we are with what they're doing to fully embrace our 'Be Ocean Minded' philosophy, which is the foundation of our company.  A great example is one of the kids we flow product to in Florida – 12 year old Avery Aydelotte.  She recently went out on her own and raised almost $3,000 for the SIMA Humanitarian Fund, during their 'Stokes Me – Surfers Helping Humans' initiative.  I told Avery and her parents that doing things like that is MUCH more meaningful to us than going out and winning a surf contest (which she also does on a regular basis!).

Tell us about OM's partnership with the Surfrider Foundation.
It's a very informal partnership in that we publicly support their organization at the local, national, and international level, and try to help out as much as we can.  For our beach clean-up efforts and support of projects like the 'Save Trestles' campaign, we've earned their endorsement.  They are also headquartered here in San Clemente, and before we moved into our new building a few years ago, we were actually neighbors and it allowed us to start personal relationships with their staff.  Their mission is the 'protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches through a powerful activist network' and we are proud to consider ourselves part of that network and think our biggest contribution comes in the form of our beach clean-ups.  I do think it's important to also point out that we've partnered with other great organizations for beach and environmental cleanups, as well.  The Conservation Alliance, Wildcoast, Pick Up 3 and H2O Trash Patrol are all examples of groups we've partnered with before and hope to continue to do so in the future.

What do you think lies in the future for OM?
Looking into my crystal ball, I see some VERY exciting future products coming from Ocean Minded.  While it's too early for me to divulge specific details, I can tell you these are products that completely define who we are as a brand – from the design, fit, and of course the materialization.  From concept to creation, these new products embody our mantra of 'Live. Protect. Respect.'.  I think you will also see a continued commitment from our brand on doing our best to host or participate in as many clean-ups as possible.  In 2012 we were involved in 25 environmental clean-ups that saw approximately 1,442 volunteers pick up and properly dispose of approximately 21,339 pounds of trash and we hope to exceed those numbers in 2013.  Lastly, as our business expands globally, we think it's important for us to never forget the simple idea of 'Be Ocean Minded' is the foundation of our company and should be the basis for all of our actions.

http://www.oceanminded.com/

Jack Coleman Colloquy.


How would you describe your film work?
Really crappy. (laughs) Colorful. Maybe out-of-focus a little too much. I don’t know if all that’s my fault, though—it might be the camera’s. It’s fast-moving, colorful imagery. I want my films to be a little bit faster than most of the films out today. I like things to change and I like different film stocks and I like when it goes from black-and-white to color. I like mistakes. I like when the telecine skips, or when the projector burns the film.

Do your clients grant you complete creative control?
For many of the jobs that nobody sees—the stuff that I make my living off of—I’ll do what clients want, but as far as my surf films go, nobody can touch those, so I do whatever I want. A lot of weird stuff happens with film. Sometimes when I get it processed and it comes back to me, I’m like, “Whoa, I was way off,” or it’ll come back a weird color, or whatever. The other stuff, when I process it by myself, scratches can come into it, and the colors can fall off. I know there’s a lot of stuff that’s going to happen that’s not planned out, and that’s part of the process, especially for editing.
A lot of times, I’ll just throw footage into my computer, get it all organized and ready, put my sound to it, and every once in a while there’ll be something that hits and I can build from that. I never really storyboard it out. It’s spontaneous, especially in the editing. Whatever happens, happens. It’s been a natural process for me. Frustrating, sometimes, like when a file doesn’t render and you lose eight hours of work. It’s happened to me a few times, but you go through all that and now I’m to the point where it’s like “whatever”—I know what’s going on. In every film short I’ve done, even if it’s 30 seconds or a minute, there’s always something where I’m stoked, like, “Whoa, that’s cool that that happened,” or, “I love that burn on the film there.”

Many viewers might find it hard to believe that you don’t apply any fake digital effects during the editing of your films.
Yeah, there are no digital effects in my post-production. I might color-correct and stuff like that, but the effects are done in-camera. I use filters and gels that I tape onto the lenses. Sometimes I’ll use a Magic Marker and put color onto the actual film. The burn marks are real burn marks because the film is being processed in a bucket. If a frame skips or jumps, that’s from the film transfer. Sometimes you’ll see hair and/or dust because I don’t spray the camera out; there are a lot of things you have to do to really get a pristine, clear picture. I like the light leaks and scratches and all that stuff. All the mistakes are what I really like about film. During the making of Polyester, I wanted to bring those to the forefront more so than, say, a bunch of really good, A+ waves at Pipeline and places like that, like most surf movies today are based on.

What equipment do you use?
It’s all Super 8 and 16mm. I use Super 8 is because I can afford it. It’s also very convenient, especially when I’m on the road. I know that 16mm is extremely beautiful and it’s twice as expensive, so I’d be able to shoot half as much, and it’s hard when you’re out there because you need dark rooms to load them. But, yeah, my stuff is mostly 8mm—I have six or seven cameras that I’ve collected, and with my Beaulieu I’ve sort of graduated to the top end of Super 8 cameras. Now I can change lenses and I have focal length, which I never had. A lot of Polyester and the beginning of Happy Beach was all hand-held with limited range, so I had to go to spots that broke close to the beach, or I had to do really pulled-back stuff. So, yeah, I use a range of Super 8 cameras from the ‘70s and early ‘80s. My 16mm is a Bell & Howell from the ’50s-‘60s.
            In art school, I learned how to shoot with a 4x5, which is a large-format camera, and a step up from that is an 8x10 camera, which for me is the pinnacle of photography.

Why?
It’s just so manly. (laughs)

What makes it manly?
Well, it records the most information, so you get quality and details and stuff that digital cameras and smaller film stocks can’t pick up. Imagine how small a 35mm piece of film is compared to an 8x10-inch piece of film. It makes for more powerful images. There’s something about an 8x10 photograph. We’ve all seen them. You’ve seen the pictures of Marilyn Monroe and people like that. Many celebrity portraits these days are done with 8x10, photos in Vanity Fair and places like that—it’s all shot in 8x10, but nobody really knows. Everyone thinks it’s digital or something. It’s a really hard process and it’s real expensive; the camera is big and cumbersome and limiting. But for me, it’s a fun challenge that’ll probably set my path for the next 10 years or so.
Besides doing films, now doing 8x10 photography is going to reinvigorate my desire to shoot photos again. That’s why I got it, and that’s why I’m stoked. You can shoot collodion tintypes on there, which is almost like an instant picture you can get in the darkroom. It’s really exciting, definitely my favorite thing to do right now—large-format and tintype portrait stuff—besides doing film. I’m going to explore it all. It’s going to be hard, though, because I have a lot of film projects coming my way and I’m getting busier. But one picture could make my whole life, you know?

Where did Jack Coleman come from?
I was born a poor black child. (laughs). No, I grew up right off Beach Boulevard with eight brothers and sisters from the same parents. A Catholic family. It was pretty crazy around my house. I was the fourth, so I was in the middle, with older brothers, older sisters, younger brothers, younger sisters. The neighborhood was pretty crazy, a lot of kids, so there was a lot of skateboarding, playing, ding-dong doorbell ditching. It was a pretty fun childhood. It wasn’t a strict sort of Catholic family, but my parents were pretty Catholic. I went to Catholic elementary school for a little bit; ended up going to a public school and it was, by far, better than Catholic school.

Where was this?
(laughs) In a city whose name shall remain anonymous.

Why?
Because the city sucks. I grew up close to Huntington Beach and Newport Beach—

Westminster? Buena Park? La Habra?
(laughs) —and, um….yeah, I was there till I was 17. Came to the beach.

What was your introduction to surfing?
We lived close enough to the beach to where it was a normal thing that we did every summer. We all would jump into the station wagon and head down to Huntington or Newport or Corona del Mar. It was my favorite thing to do all year. We’d do the bonfires, hang out all day. And back then, during the ‘70s and ‘80s, surfing was on ABC’s Wide World of Sports every once in a while. There was also a guy who grew up in my neighborhood who was older, and he was a really good surfer and skimboarder; he definitely influenced me. He was my hero.
Surfing didn’t seriously come into my life until later, when I left home at 17, because I played a lot of other sports. The first time I stood on a surfboard was on a kneeboard, and it was in Seal Beach. I was blown away. It was the typical first-wave-hooked-for-life kind of thing. So I borrowed a 5’6” Carl Hayward from some kid who lived down the street. I took it out at Huntington and snapped the nose on my second wave. When you’re 12 years old, that’s devastating, you know? Sixty dollars to fix it. So I just kept the board because I didn’t have any money. After that, it was like, well, I’ll start boogie-boarding because those don’t break. So I did that. But it was cool because I learned how to duck-dive, and I could take off on huge waves because it was so easy. Then, right when I moved to the beach when I was 17, I made a promise to myself to start hardboarding.

When did photography enter your life?
After high school, I became an actor for three years and did commercial work. I went to New York and did this acting competition, and ended up going to Italy and Germany, where I lived for two years. I had really wanted to travel—that was the main thing. But there were a lot of people coming through this agency that I was with. I was shooting with a them and I saw how everything worked, but it wasn’t really that fun. I wanted to be on the other side of the camera. I thought that I could do it myself and it could be way better, so I just started shooting pictures of my friends, walking around the cities, doing 35mm point-and-shoot stuff with an old Olympus, just dicking around.
Meanwhile, I was over there making a living as an actor, doing TV spots and commercials and stuff. Some print work and catalogs, some modeling stuff. I went to Milan for a couple of seasons and did the runway shows, but nothing big—like a flake of dandruff in the overall scene. It was fun, though. I was traveling, they were putting me up in places, I was making enough to get by, and that’s what I was stoked on. I was meeting all kinds of cool people. Tons of hot chicks. That period was when I got into photography, into lighting and composition, and black-and-white film stuff.
But I missed the beach. I needed to get home. So I moved back here and was just cruising around. Totally dicking around Newport Beach. Partying, working odd jobs, valet, waiter, but the whole time I was taking photographs, learning the process, because it was still film in those days. I started thinking about stuff, like, “What am I going to be doing when I’m older?” I knew I wanted to do photography, so I committed to it right then.
When I was 25 or 26, I started shooting little kids on the beach around here. They’d just run around smiling and I’d take pictures of them, and the parents would freak out. I got a lot of work doing that. Little kids are so innocent and natural, and it was easy for me. I did that sort of stuff for about eight years.
In 2007, at age 33, I got my first digital camera, and for the next two years I went to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

What did you learn there?
To explore and research other artists, not just photographers—filmmakers, painters, sculptors, everything that goes with art, because that’s what photography is, too. Before that, I thought I was taking the coolest pictures in the world. Now I look back at them and realize that I wasn’t there. School helped me to dig deeper into the meaning of photographs and lighting and composition and all the technical stuff, actually understanding how a camera works. Towards the end of school, in 2009, I started experimenting with film. I knew that I wanted to do real film, Super 8 and stuff. I remembered watching home movies as a kid, with the projector with my family, and I wanted to do that—I wanted to make little home movies.
 
Why?
There’s something extremely powerful about the sound of the projector, having everybody get together to watch these moving images against the wall. Stuff like, “Oh, my god! I remember when you made pancakes on that camping trip!” Whenever the films ended, I didn’t want them to. But then, later, I saw a Super 8 short made for a clothing company or something. It was a backyard barbecue scene. That was when I got way into it. Photography kind of took a back seat, but it’s always been there.

You’ve done a lot of film work with the Growlers. How did that start?
I met the band through Knost when I was doing a photo show at a place where I wanted Alex’s band to play. He told me about a band that he wanted to also play, and they’d play for free, and they were called the Growlers. They would open for the Japanese Motors. The Growlers were nobodies, a local garage band playing anywhere they could. That was a fun show, but I didn’t think too much of the band or anything like that. Two years passed, then I got ahold of this album that they’d just made, called “Couples Volumes,” and it was about 30 songs that they recorded themselves. To this day, it’s some of the best music I’ve ever heard. I threw it into my car’s CD player and it was in there for almost a year straight. It was this abundance of sound and vibration, and pretty incredible. I was blown away.
I’d see Brooks (Nielsen, lead singer) in the water surfing, and one day I pitched him the idea of doing a music video for the band. I picked out the songs I liked most, and he’s like, “Okay, yeah, we’ll try it.” We tried one for the song “Acid Rain,” and it turned out pretty good, and he could tell that I was really excited. It was shot digitally and looked so insane—HD, great lighting—but Brooks was like, “It’s great, but it’s….” It was too clean for him. The song was about rain and water, and I thought about how I could make it so the band would love it. I decided to project it onto the bottom of a pool, and that turned out killer. After that, he had some trust in me.
Then I went on a mini tour with them, just two or three shows up the coast, and that’s kind of how our film relationship started. I shot film on the way up, of them there, driving, eating, the show, all that stuff, and I put a couple of film shorts together, and it turned out pretty nice. From there, it snowballed. I’ve done two full tours with them, all the way across America, which was great, because when I’d traveled elsewhere before, it was to Germany, New York, Italy—I didn’t see Kansas or Colorado or Utah, so it was a way for me to do that.
The Growlers have a lot of music that had never been released, so I had a lot of film to lay stuff to, and now I’ve whittled it down so when I go on tour with them, it’s kind of calculated.
The band is kind of at the same point with its artistic endeavors as I am with my film and photography. I know I do stuff that people are stoked on, but not everybody likes it, of course. At the same time, the Growlers are doing music that a lot of people connect with. 

When you first began working with them, where were you living?
Down on 47th Street in Newport.

What was your main source of income?
I was doing photography full-time.

For clients such as…?
Clients such as…nobody you know. (laughs) Well, I do a lot of girls clothing lines, guys clothing lines. They’re all over the place here. It’s steady work.

Small local companies.
Yeah. Well, recently I’ve worked with Vestal, RVCA, Volcom, Raen, BL!SSS, O’Neill, Eskuché. There are names of other companies that I think you probably know, but I don’t want people to know I did work for them. (laughs)

Oh, come on—that’s part of your story!
(laughing) I know. That is the story, then. I have my clients, and I work with a PR firm and they get me some jobs. I make wedding films and stuff, so that definitely helps to pay the bills. There are a ton of jobs that nobody ever sees and that I don’t show. It’s just work. I go and get the job done so I can go and buy film and do stuff that I really love to do, like shooting music videos and traveling and going on surf trips.

You're a bit of a late-bloomer, eh?
I’m very much a late-bloomer. One day I asked myself, “What am I going to leave behind?” Well, now I have two surf films; if I drop dead tomorrow, at least I have these two really cool surf films that, 20 or 30 years down the road, people will like to revisit. Yeah, it kind of just kicked into gear. I’d been goofing off for long enough. I found what I loved to do, and I’m charging it. I’m in this phase of putting my head down and going for it. Maybe I’ll eventually stop and smell the roses or whatever, but there’s a lot of stuff I’ve given up to do films.

On your blog, you wrote: “Film carries life in it.” Discuss.
Film is a physical thing that you can grab and pull and hold onto. You can smell it. You can look through it. It’s something real, and whatever was shot is what was captured on that film, and, um…wait, what was the question again? (laughs)

“Film carries life in it.”
It does! My mom gave me some of her film from 1969 in Hawaii. I threw it into the projector last year and was blown away. To see my mom when she was 19 was insane. It made me love her so much more and look at her in a whole different way, because I just knew her as this person who raised me. This film showed me what her life used to be like before she had nine kids to take care of.

What is Newport Beach to you?
Home. I’m comfortable here. It’s Southern California with the golden light. There are beautiful girls. I like the climate, I like the water. There are always waves to ride. I can jump into my car and go to Lowers. I just recently discovered Laguna Beach, which is right south of here, and it’s almost like Hawaii is down the street from me now. Really beautiful coastline, and I’m exploring all these places and checking out the waves. But Newport is my home and I’ll probably live here for the rest of my life. Mexico is super close, too, which is great.

What’s the difference between shooting music films and surfing films?
I kind of mix them together. I almost want my surf films to be music videos, because I think the sound of the music is the foundation of what you hear, and then you see. Sometimes I try to make my surf films like music films, where a lot is happening. I’ve taken from the music films I’ve done and brought aspects of them into my surf films. Many of the music films I’ve done haven’t been formal—a few were conceptualized and storyboarded and stuff—but, for the most part, it’s been sort of free-wing live footage mixed with travel footage and all that stuff. So, no, there’s not that much of a difference to me.
Shooting surfing is not that easy because you can’t just snap your fingers and you have some guy surfing for you. It’s not really like that. I guess if you became successful, it could be more like that, but I’m not even there. To get Ford Archbold out of bed before 10 a.m. is really hard to do. To get Knost to surf somewhere other than the spots he’s comfortable surfing is really hard to do, but it happens every once in a while.
It’s the same thing with music films. The band will have a vision for their song and I’ll have something that I think would be right, and there’s a compromise. So it’s almost the same process. It’s painful sometimes, but the rewards are really great when people appreciate it and are stoked at the end of the day.

No risk, no reward.
Yes, absolutely.

You’re keepin’ it real.
(laughs)

Are you successful?
I would say definitely not. (laughs) Polyester and Happy Beach are kind of like two weird stepbrothers, and out of everything I’ve done, I’m most proud of these two films that I made in the last year and a half. There are a few hundred people out there who like my stuff (laughs), so I feel successful sometimes. But, I don’t know, man—I have a really, really great life. I have a nice, free existence, so in that way I feel successful. My bank account doesn’t agree, though. (laughs)


"Triptych" Review in ESM.

Thanks to Nick McGregor and ESM for the great review of "Triptych," which you can own simply by clicking on the "Buy Now" PayPal button on the right side of this page!


Note From A Shark-Bitten Friend.


Dear Michael,
My name is Scott Stephens, October 30th I had an encounter with Whitey at Bunkers. Unfortunately I didn't get to meet you that night at the ATL when you showed your videos. I want to thank you for your book Crossings. It gave me so much great imagery and dreams as I was kept out of the water recovering this last month. The next best thing to surfing has to be either reading about it or watching it. I appreciate your willingness to travel on less traveled paths in search of new discoveries.  The Times Standard Humboldt has decided to give me my very own surf column. This being a dream as I've always wanted to be a writer, but also a daunting task as I hope to not offend too many local surfers. Anyways, I'm doing my first column on an old time Humboldt Boardshaper by the name of Ken Roch, and would like to write another from my travels in Peru about reed surf boats. Do you have any idea where I could see/get more information about these boats and the history of their use in Peru? Perhaps a surfing museum in Peru? Also, while I'm at it, In March am I going to get more swell in the north or south? Thanks so much Michael! I really aspire to live a life like yours someday. Be your own boss, surf everyday no matter how shitty it is, and live to tell the story. I've attached some writing I did about my experience that you may find interesting.
All the best, Scott

Dear Family and Friends,
Tuesday, October 30th the day before halloween was like any other recent morning in my life. I filled up a mug of coffee, loaded my car and headed to the beach to surf. Fall has been good to Humboldt Bays surf exposed peninsula and this morning followed in suit. Smoke from the power plant drifted up and over Samoa Blvd, hinting of offshore SE winds and groomed conditions off the North Jetty. I remember the first thing I noticed when I eased onto the beach at the end of Bunker Rd. was large flocks of shore birds flying low to the surf turning simultaneously, reflecting shimmering silver like the offshore ocean spray. I tried to film the spectacle on my phone but of course you just had to be there to appreciate it.
The morning looked perfect, high tide peaks broke up and down the beach, most of the action being focused where an underwater canyon funnels in the approaching swells and maximizes their size and intensity. The water looked clean and clear characteristic of the spot and time of year . As I suited up into my 5×4 wetsuit I got a call from my friend Teddy asking me how the surf looked. I laughed asking him how he knew I was checking the surf? “I guess I  know you too well.” Out in the water I ran into another buddy Blake and we commented on  how clear and nice the water looked. A set rolled in and I took a wave left separating me from the rest of the surfers on the north end of the peak. A fortunate channel brought me back out to the outside and I caught three more waves in quick succession, laughing at my luck I dug deep paddling hard to get back out and catch another. My arms felt good, finally getting into paddling shape with all the recent surfing. My luck would change in a heartbeat. Mid paddle, from behind me and out of the corner of my left eye something dark broke the surface and I felt a weight land on my back.  My first thought was seal, but as I was drug under water and felt the force and power of being shaken in the jaws of a top predator, I feared for my life. Feeling so small and insignificant I opened my eyes under water to see my first shark in thirteen years of surfing. The face was black and streamlined the nose jutting foreword over an almost grinning mouth of teeth. Four feet from the tip of the nose to the beginning of the dorsal, it’s right eye as large as a baseball. My right fist made contact with the shark just behind this eye. It felt like punching a bag of concrete. I can’t describe what I was feeling at this moment. Some combination of shock and terror surely but within seconds it was all over. I was released, and the shark was gone into the depths. It wasn’t until I saw my board floating near by, leash bitten through and a 14inch diameter half circle missing out of it that I put thought to my injuries. As I got back on my board and started paddling to shore I noticed the red. Blood mixing with water, creating a crimson pool around me a hole in my wetsuit and my torso that I knew was serious. Screaming for help while I paddled back to shore I hoped the other surfers 150 yards away would here me. I kept paddling as I waited and wondered how much blood I had left to lose. A wave came to my rescue bringing me back to shore on my stomach where I was met by another surfer in waist high water. He grabbed my board and I stumbled onto the beach where two other surfers quickly met me. My hand did nothing to stop the bleeding, so I laid onto my side and one of the surfers Ian an off duty EMT had the quick and as the surgeon would later call it creative thought to lay on my wound using his body weight to apply pressure. Luckily for me your allowed to drive on the beach here and right when I needed it most another surfer Jason drove by on his way home. Not a minute was wasted as I was loaded into the back of his truck and driven almost to the hospital before being intercepted by an ambulance in Eureka. From there, everything continued incredibly with the head surgeon of St. Joseph’s Hospital on duty and fresh out of another surgery. I was going to make it. Modern medicine saved my life but not without the help of my heros and fellow surfers.                                                                                                                                       In a sport made for kings, surfing remains a pursuit in which the playing field is unlimited, unbiased and unconquerable. Perhaps it’s this sense of unconquerable magnitude that drew the great Polynesian Kings to love the feeling of gliding atop the waters edge on something greater than themselves. I could only imagine that when your job is to be a ruler, you would seek out the places where you are least in charge. A place that beckons you time and time again asking nothing and tolerating so much. In a sport made for kings, surfing remains a sport ….well…..made for Kings.
In the wake of my recent shark attack I’m forced to stay out of the water but I find myself riding a different wave. A wave of compassion and support shown from the local community and surfers that live here, that has brought me back to shore standing tall, and mighty like a Polynesian King. I’ve always loved the saying “Surfers Can Do Anything,” and after witnessing the actions taken by fellow surfers to save my life and the response of others to raise funds for my care I believe it more than ever. In thought to why or how I was so lucky, I am given a sense of joy for being alive. A joy that I feel it’s my duty to spread with the world. An infectious stoke that has started as a bacteria inside the jaws of the mighty Great White, grown on my healing wounds and spread into the community that has supported me.
Call it a second chance, borrowed time, good graces I would have never thought a life threatening accident could bring life to such a clarity. A little over a week after the accident I am told by my surgeon that I’m fortunate I’m young and healing fast. In just another couple weeks I should be back in the pool swimming, rebuilding, getting strong again. As far as the mental barrier to getting back in the ocean and back to what I love to do, it’s simple. Life is too boundless not to. Too boundless to turn your back on your dreams and not embrace what you love. 
It’s in this same sense of urgency that I have written this letter to thank everyone that has supported my family and me over the last week. For the boundless compassion and generosity only capable of humans. I can only hope to be able to give what has been given to me.
See ya in the water,
Scott Stephens