Columns Waterspot

Waterspot: Surf Story II

As a surfer, I was exposed to surf stories from the first day I surfed in January of 1962. The first story came from my friend Jim about a guy named Dan who was said to have shot the Huntington Pier while hanging heels on a 10-foot wave. As we pulled up to Huntington Pier and I tried to imagine Dan on a wave as tall as the pier while his legend continued to grow in my mind.

By the time I got home to tell my younger brother about my first day surfing, Dan was a friend of mine, the waves were 15 feet and I myself shot the pier. Younger brother was impressed and I was my own hero. Of course, none of it ever happened, but that bit of trivia should never keep one from telling a great surf story.

Another type of surf story does actually happen, but is so exaggerated that it resembles a politician’s promise to clean up the ocean. Then there is the surf story that is told verbatim. These are well photographically documented and completely true, but basically as exciting as an online nutritional post about the benefits of getting enough fiber in your diet.

To me a good storyteller is merely an articulate and convincing liar. I have sold four books of surf stories, so I should check to see if my pants are on fire. They aren’t but they are smoldering a bit.

My surf stories do not so much concern waves as they do the characters who ride them. I tend to choose subjects ranging from slightly mad, to ever-so-slightly sane. All of them share values opposed to those of the world we all inhabit. They are the types who spend a year’s wages on an eight-foot gun and a one-way ticket to the North Shore with no idea of where they will stay when they arrive alone and penniless. They build driftwood cabins on mossy and forgotten points. They bury their cars in the shorebreak in hopes that the metallic structure will create an artificial surfing reef. They charge forward into their fantasylands armed with little more than a bar of wax and worn out and stolen copies of the Surfer’s Journal and Don Quixote.

I love telling and writing surf stories nearly as much as I do living them. And so I was honored and stoked to have surf artist Robb Havassy invite me to be a part of “Surf Story II,” a 521-page volume of surf stories and surf art with 103 contributors. (I, along with my close friend, ocean artist Wade Koniakowsky am featured on page 127.)

The book features famous surfers like Shaun Tomson, Peter Townend, and Mickey Munoz, and lesser-known surfers like Ea Eckerman, Luciano Leao and little ol’ me. By my reckoning, it would require about 200 years of sitting around Baja campfires to equal the information in this single volume. You can read it in about half that time. Now combine volume two with the 421 pages in volume one and you get the greatest compilation of surf stories ever told. (Trying not to sound like a gushing infomercial here. Now, how much would you pay?)

The book is not cheap, but it will give you a look behind the curtain and, weighing in at 15 pounds, offer the head start you need to power into winter surf. Not quite as indispensable as the family Bible, but for a family of surfers it takes a solid second place.

To learn more about Robb Havassy’s Surf Story Project, check out:

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