Friday, March 30, 2007

Surf in Art: Margaret Kilgallen

I first saw Margaret Kilgallen's work at a show she had with her husband, Barry McGee, at UCLA's Hammer Museum in 2000. I wasn't a surfer at the time, but I was still so enchanted by her world of women on rockerless longboards, palm trees, beautiful burnt colors applied directly on the walls, huge hand painted script. I was living in the Mission in SF at the time, and I recognized many her influences - the sign paintings, the graffiti, the Mexican murals - but the surf imagery was foreign. I had no idea there was a surf scene in the Bay Area, let alone artists who celebrated it.

A few years later, when I looked her up again, I was devastated to find out that she had succumbed to a battle with breast cancer. This was right after my wife was diagnosed with the disease, and I was becoming keenly aware of how uneducated America is about breast cancer, especially among young women. It broke my heart even more to find out she had a child, Asha, only a few weeks before she passed away.

I'm blown away by how much Margaret accomplished in her short life. Her work and Barry's will always resonate with me, not only because of their incredible aesthetic beauty, but with added subcontext of our shared experiences.

Tommy Guerrero - Thank You MK

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Other Kind of Fishing

Took out the fish yesterday at a jetty.
Caught three waves before the tide killed it.
Bought some Mexican beer and waited.
Tide went slack.
Climbed down slippery rocks (beer in hand).
Cast the lure and bounced it off the bottom.
Jerked it free from snags.
South wind came on strong.
Rain pelted horizontally.
Peed twice.
Sneaky swell sprayed legs.
Caught a few fish.
Checked the surf again.


Bought 4 dozen fresh oysters.
Shucked and chucked some back in the parking lot.
Three waves.
Three fish.
All before three o'clock.

(Thanks to Rye for showing me the ropes.)

DJ Krust - Maintain

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Wax On

Put some new wax on my stick tonight in anticipation of tomorrow's session. As you can see, I got a little carried away. Inspiration came from the wild wax jobs I've seen created by the guys down at Mollusk Surf Shop in SF. I'm sure one layer of mushy cold water wax will screw up the design, but it was nice to get artsy-fartsy for 20 minutes as the sun set on my front porch.

Stan Getz - One Note Samba

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Surf in Art: David Shrigley

So many great artists have incorporated surf imagery into their work, whether they actually partake in our favorite passtime or not. This is going to be a recurring feature on Sissyfish (during those thumb twiddling dry-spells) where I showcase my favorites, many of whom directly influence my own paintings and drawings.

The first in the series is David Shrigley. His simple sketches and hilarious writing captivated me when I first found a his book on Urbane Outfitters' clearance rack for 5 bones. Over the last five years I 've collected as many of his books as I can find and visit his website often for a good laugh. Click on the image above to see what I mean.

Beirut - Postcards From Italy

Monday, March 19, 2007

The History of Sissyfish

It's hard to believe that this spring marks the three-year aniversary of my taking up surfing again. As with doing anything you love, the time has just flown by. Or has it slowed down? Luckily, I've had this blog to record the accomplishments, kook-outs, blunders, revelations, snapshots and sketches from my Oregon surfing experience.

This post is my 150th entry into the journal, which I hope I'll continue to stay stoked on for many more years to come. And more surprising still is the fact that Sissyfish has been graced with 10,000 hits since I put a counter on it six months ago. Thanks to everyone for continuing to drop in.

I threw a bunch of pictures together and made a slideshow of my adventures up to this point. Hopefully I'll be able to reflect on these moments 30 years from now and feel a fraction of the excitement I had when I found myself catching waves again.

Robert Pollard - Caught Waves Again

Friday, March 16, 2007

Short Sands Magic

Always great to sneak out on a Friday and get some waves. Hadn't been to Shorties in a while, and it was nice to get it on a day when it could be surfed again. The sun was shining, the sets were aplenty (and peaky up and down the beach). Ebb and I exchanged waves for three hours. Cha-ching!

I guess you could say today was a good day. See you Sunday...

Boy Least Likely To - Paper Cuts

Thursday, March 15, 2007

We've All Been There

Sitting at your desk. Landlocked. Dreaming of waves. Dreaming of vehicles to ride those waves. Now it's Gee who is fixating on a new stick.

Bongo Herman - Chairman of the Board

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Storm Troopers

Yesterday. March 10. We weren't holding our breath about getting surf when we strapped our boards to the roof at 7am. And the view from the parking lot didn't exactly have us falling over eachother to get in the water. Rain, high winds and big, cold, lumpy swells awaited outside our warm car. Eventually we did jump off the rocks and into the rip. At first, we tried our luck on the big rights that were thumping in. I caught one, but it closed out. After spending some time battling various deep water currents and managing to get caught "inside" a couple times - where Nash claimed to experence his longest holddown - our better judgement took over and we joined a few other guys on a grinder that peeled off the rocks. Shoulder high, the wave had serious oomph. If you didn't keep up with the steep face after the drop, you'd most likely have a run-in with barnacle encrusted boulders. More than once.

It took me a while to figure it out, but eventually I caught a larger set wave and was treated to the kind of experience only a point break can offer: fast, clean, walled-up, machine-like ... did I mention fast? The speed was deceptive because the wave almost seemed grind in place, reeling up and over itself rather than down the line. I only became aware of my velocity when I flew off the back as it shut down inside. I soared up to the end of my leash, diving head first into the rip.

When we got back to our car, we noticed that the right on the outside bar had cleaned up substantially. There were a few troopers who were tearing it up, probably stoked to be going frontside for a change.

Tobin Sprout - Gas Daddy Gas

Friday, March 09, 2007

Memory Trigger 2

Sketch from Mexico
a couple years ago,
knee-high peeler,
titled "Fisher Man."

Replacements - All He Wants to Do Is Fish

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Later that day...

Not to keep beating a dead horse, but this is a shot from later in the afternoon on Sunday. We were out there for our second session, in which I completely flailed, but Nash and Slim redeemed themselves. Hard not to dwell on a day like that when you see impending storm surf for the next week.

Anybody ever smack their ear so hard on a wipeout that they thought they may have gone deaf? My left ear is still popping a little.

Props to Down The Line on the message board for the jpeg!

Shearwater - Red Sea Black Sea

Monday, March 05, 2007

A Great Run

"That was a great run!" an old lady called out to me as I walked out of the surf, wrapping the leash around my board. I said thanks and turned to look at the waves. A big blue line rolled in and feathered, breaking in that slow motion curtain-drop way that indicates significant size and distance. Off the back of the falling lip rose a plume of mist. It was like smoke - like the udulating hills were on fire.

The waves were firing. Had I actually ridden one of those?

It had been a crazy session. When we pulled up to the dirt parking area a few hours earlier, there were lots of cars and trucks with surfboards on their roofs, but only three souls were in the water. Old guys with moustaches, crow's feet eyes, hoodies, and coffee mugs milled around, commenting on the action.

"Did he make it out of the barrel?"
"That was a big one."
"Never seen it work this good."

The waves were large and well-shaped: a solid head-and-a-half high on the sets. And hollow. Some closed out, but many ran perfectly for 200 yards toward the beach. I watched a guy tuck into a tube and glide back out onto the shoulder.

My compatriots, Nash and Slim, stood and watched next to me shivering at the brisk offshores, the prospect of charging. Nash instigated: "Let's do it!"

Suited up, we scurried down rocks and into the rip. No way could we have made it outside without the help of the outwardly moving current. I had butterflies in my stomach as I bounced through the chop, looking right for where the other surfers were lined up. I spotted them and began to paddle their way.

In a matter of only a few seconds, I realized I'd made a big mistake: I had turned out of the rip too early. Out of nowhere, a massive ledge arose and I redirected my paddling toward the horizon, trying to beat the wave to where it was going to break. I knew I wouldn't make it, but I hoped that by confronting it head-on, my speed would help me get deeper on my duckdive. The lip began to fall as I reached the trough. I pushed the nose as deep as possible, then jammed the tail down with my knee.

I was under the water fairly deep, but not deep enough to avoid the brunt of this wave's impact. My body went limp under the force and my surfboard vanished from my grip. I spun under the water and waited for the turbulance to pass. It did, and I swam back up for air.

I was rattled.

I got comfortable on the outside, letting swell after swell pass under me. I caught my breath. The first wave I went for was fairly huge (by my standards) and I mistimed it completely. I was too late. I went over the falls, falling through the air backwards somehow, feeling my board pass me on its way up into an offshore gust. Again I tumbled under the water for a while, scrambling up for air when the sea let me go.

I regrouped, watching the local surfers, who had the waves dailed. I noticed that they were taking off a little farther south than me. The peak seemed to crumble there instead of pitching from top to bottom.

The third wave I paddled for, I caught. I made the drop and quickly angled down the line, feeling the speed of rushing water under my feet. The mist of the lip seemed to tickle my shoulder as I rose up the face. I dropped back down and noticed Slim in the flats ahead, his smile confirming the fact that I was locked in the pocket with a teardrop in chase.

I rode it until the wall backed off a little and didn't push my luck, kicking out before I got too far inside. My fear was suddenly replaced by pure stoke.

I caught several more as the hours rolled by, wiping out often, but staying alert and careful. Keeping out of harm's way. I was completely focused. I chatted with my friends about the conditions and we advised eachother on easier ways to get into the freight training waves.

After a while our toes and fingers began to numb. The waves got a little less consistent as the tide advanced. Nash went in. I motioned to Slim with my index finger, signaling I was only good for one more. In a few minutes, it came.

The wave approached almost from the north, it seemed, in a long line. I had gotten used to the fact that even when it seemed to be rolling from that direction, it would hit a sand bar and break closer to the south first as it walled up, creating the hollower set waves. I spun for this one, being the closest to the peak, and paddled with everything I had left. As the power pushed me forward, it crossed my mind that I might be too late. I popped to my feet looking down at a near vertical eight-foot drop. My fins caught the wall and held, generating speed. A surfer who was paddling in pulled his board back as I sped by. I was slotted.

I stayed in the pocket with my hand dragging along the face. When I got too far out, I dropped again and found the pocket. It went on forever, and the lip seemed to be right above me. The tube must've been so close. This wave reformed at least three times as I got closer to the shore.

I finally got to the shallows and jumped off my board, buzzing from the ride. Grabbing my leash, I walked toward the sand, wrapping it around the fins. I pulled the hood of my wetsuit back and heard the woman compliment my "run."

Walking back up to the truck, I wondered if anybody else had seen my last wave. It was probably the best of my life.

"Dude!" It was Nash, who was scratching his dog's ear on the other side of the cab. "That was the sickest ride. I didn't think it was you at first. You were like two feet in front of the barrel. If you would have slowed down, you would have been in!"

We cracked a few beers and watched the waves for another half hour. And that was only our first session of the day.

Split Endz - Shark Attack

*The photos above were shot stealthily from inside the truck. The swell got knocked down considerably with the higher tide, but there were still decent waves to be had. The location of this spot will remain anonymous, to protect the innocent locals who were kind enough to share their waves.