Kampion, Hynd, Warshaw and…Patterson? The Joel Patterson Interview

20 01 2010

There is a column in Surfer called the Hot Seat. I believe Derek Rielly does it now. Well, guess what? It’s your turn now. I’m going to pull out some of those old questions from memory. Give me five people living or dead you’d most like to have at your dinner table?
Woody Allen, Kurt Vonnegut, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dylan Thomas and Bob Simmons. What a strange night that would be.

Last book you read?
I’m currently creeping through The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer. Not trying to sound erudite or something, just wanted to read a modern classic. It’s lop-siding my night stand as we speak.

Favorite Film?
Lately, Modern Collective. What a film!

Shit. That’s all I can remember. Ok, time for the real questions. How long have you been the editor-in-chief at Surfer and what is your background?
I got the job in September 2008, so just shy of a year and a half. I’ve worked for surf and skate mags most my adult life. I grew up in Newport Beach, where my brother Matt and I surfed and skated. In 1994 I was hired as an assistant editor at TransWorld SKATEboading, where I was lucky enough to get to work with legendary editors and photographers like Grant Brittain, Dave Swift, Aaron Regan, Atiba and Ako Jefferson, Skin Phillips, Kevin Wilkins, Ted Newsome and others.

Over the course of the next six plus years, I rose through the editorial ranks at TWSkate, though I was mostly its managing editor. In December 2000, I became the editor in chief of TransWorld SURF. The publisher at the time wanted someone with skate background who grew up surfing, and I guess I fit that bill. At TWSurf, I worked with Chris Cote, who was a natural talent—funny, smart, creative—Marc Hostetter, Aaron Checkwood, and Steve Sherman, who I think is one of the most important photographers in our little world. We hired Chris’ brother Justin, Casey Koteen, and Pete Taras—all were great hires, and have since made such awesome contributions to the surf community. We did what I called “activist journalism,” meaning we tried to push an agenda—airs, youth, Ozzie Wright, grainy black and white, night fill flash, and generally the ushering in of a new generation of surfers. We felt like the established mags looked down at young people, and it was our goal to push those kids into the limelight because we thought they should be there.

I was fired in July 2006. I had lost the passion for it. I found myself coming up with editorial ideas, and the staff would look at me and say, “Dude, you don’t work at SURFER Magazine, this is TransWorld.” I’m paraphrasing, but it was clear I’d burned out, and though they gave me a graceful exit, it hurt. TransWorld was my grad degree, my family, and finally, my lesson in humility. It gave me a passion for working with groups of young creatives, and building community amongst editors. After that, I spent a year in my sweatpants, doing freelance writing, but feeling rudderless.

Then Dave Gilovich, Jonno Wells, Sean Collins, Marcus Sanders, and everyone over at Surfline gave me new lease by hiring me to be the editor of Water Magazine, which they’d recently acquired. Water was short lived, but getting to be inside the Surfline organization was eye-opening. It’s an impressive business with lots of competent people, and I was in awe of the speed with which their business model evolved, but I didn’t really fit. They worked mostly from home, and the community feel that was so important to me was just not really there. So when Jason Kenworthy whispered in my ear that Chris Mauro was planning on vacating the ed in chief office at SURFER, I made myself a candidate by the end of that day. After about five interviews with Rick Irons, I was hired. That was in September 2008. Since then, I’ve rediscovered that editorial community. I’m once again in the company of several young, smart, cool editors and I love it. To me, it’s all about the people you work with.

Surfer recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Is it a challenge to edit what many consider the most well known and respected surf publication in the world and is it a daunting task to sit in the same desk, so to speak, as Drew Kampion, Jim Kempton, Steve Pezman and Steve Hawk?
It’s a huge challenge, and I came into the job in a much different mindset than I did at TWSurf. SURFER is an institution. It has subscribers who haven’t missed an issue since Dwight D. Eisenhower was the President. Think about that for second. In my mind, it’s one of America’s great magazines—it’s participated in the community of surfing as much as just about any other single entity by telling stories that make the experience multi-dimensional. When I got the job, I didn’t know much about the past editors, but the 50th anniversary was a crash course. Now I see that all of us are shadows of John Severson, the founder. He was smart and liked beautiful photos, and we aspire to that. He’s been gone from the magazine for nearly four decades (he moved to Maui in the early ’70s to escape deadlines and his next-door neighbor Richard Nixon), and a dozen men have done the job since, but his energy is in the DNA of the brand.

Australia’s Tracks Magazine claims to be the “Surfer’s Bible” and Surfer is the so-called “Bible of the Sport.” What gives? There can only be one holy book right?
Those are just words. We don’t sit around in the office and call it “The Bible,” and I’ll bet my saving’s account that Luke Kennedy and the guys at Tracks don’t either. It does bare some resemblance to a holy book, though—it’s old, it’s followed devoutly, and it’s frequently misunderstood. But, come to think of it, there isn’t just one holy book. What of the Koran or the Torah? Different strokes, right?

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
The people I work with. I would say the travel, the time spent with legendary surfers, or the fact that this is the only job I can think of where a two-hour lunch-time surf is smiled upon by management, but really it’s Grant Ellis, Brendon Thomas, Mike Noe, Janna Irons, JP VanSwae, Zach Weisberg, Cody Iddings, Todd Glaser, Kimball Taylor, Jason Kenworthy, Jason Childs, Brad Melekian, Jeff Mull, Sean Doherty, Tom Servais, Christian Beamish, Chris Burkard, Patrick Trefz, Art Brewer, and on and on.

Least enjoyable?
Relentless deadlines. We make 1,000 plus editorial pages per year, and we run four Web sites, not to mention making world tour programs, calendars, a little get-together called Surfer Poll, and lots more. We do a lot of late nights.

Are there any particular stories you’re proud of?
I’m so proud of our August 2009 issue (it’s SURFER’s “Big Issue”), and the cover package we did “The Fifty Greatest Surfers of All Time.” Also, Kimball Taylor’s Flea profile was fantastic and meaningful. My job is to facilitate others’ pride.

It’s no secret print has been in a steady decline for years. In terms of Internet surf-centric sites it seems there’s Surfline and everyone else. It doesn’t seem like the print mags are really making a concerted effort to capitalize on the Internet. Do you think that is a true statement? And if so is it a mistake?
Great question. At SURFER, we do a respectable amount of online traffic (I think we did about 50-million page views in 2009, making us far and away the #2 surf site), and we do it on a limited budget. I could go deep into this topic, but I’ll sum it up by saying that you’ll see Surfline’s unchallenged reign challenged quickly in the coming months. With advertising down, we have our eyes on digital. Look for a sea change in the future.

If you told your high school career counselor you’d be editing a surf mag when you were 38 years old what would he/she say to you?
Well, I grew up in a surf-centric community, so they would probably say, “Can you get me a free subscription?”

It seems Surfer has ran the photo of founder Jon Severson pecking away on the typewriter at San Onofre hundreds of times. Will that photo ever be on the cover?
I don’t know what future generations will do with it. Under my administration we won’t put it on the cover because we just used it in the 50th anniversary issue. I think it appeals more to writer-surfers, because it so beautifully embodies what the job should be. Young man, VW bus, typewriter, shirtless, tan, facing the lineup, board nearby. If you look at that photo and it doesn’t stir something in you, don’t apply for a surf mag editor job…I think it’s a litmus test of sorts.

Every year Surfer has a guest editor issue (which is genius by the way because you can essentially take the month off). If you could choose one person to guest edit Surfer, who would it be?
Well, actually, choosing who that will be IS my job. And to dispel any rumors, we do just as much work on the guest editor issue, sometimes more. Pro surfers aren’t used to the pace and fury of a monthly deadline. Joel Tudor was my choice, and I’m damn proud of his issue. He really brought his world into the magazine. Some people loved it, others hated it, but just about everyone had an opinion…and that’s the goal.

As much as I enjoyed the 50th anniversary issue, I couldn’t help but to notice the similarities between that cover and Playboy’s 50th anniversary cover. Did you realize it’s almost identical?
Yeah, we aren’t claiming originality on that one. Here’s the deal: with all the iconic images SURFER’s run through the decades, how could you boil it down to just one? It’s impossible…we tried. Our goal was to celebrate an important milestone, so why not simply run that?

In the aforementioned issue you stated the current generation of surfers are “the most eclectic group ever.” And you “have Dane Reynolds in his prime.” Twenty years from now do you think Reynolds will be as prominent as say Curren or Dora?
That’s a tough one. I was looking at Dane’s blog (marinelayerproductions.com) today and it featured a video of him and his friends surfing near home up in Ventura. His friends are good surfers, but Dane is surfing on another plane than they are. His gift is Curren-esque, and he makes me proud to be a Californian surfer. I think his legacy will depend on his understanding of media, and if that turns out to be the case, I think he’ll find a place with the greats.

After your “tour of duty” at Surfer is over what are you more likely to do and why?
a) Move to France, become a novelist and begin working on a screenplay
b) Work for the Surfer’s Journal
c) Ease into a marketing position at a major surf company
d) Have a three-way with the George brothers
e) All of the above
What’s next is still unclear to me. Right now I’m using all my available energy, brain cells and waking hours to give SURFER’s readers the great magazine they’ve become used to. In a few years, I hope to leave tired and proud. I doubt I’ll leave rich, but that’s not why I took the job.


Surfing Prophecies for 2010

7 01 2010

Michel de Nostredame, also known as Nostradamus, was born in 1503 and was a French apothecary and reputed seer whose prophecies have been analysed and debated for centuries. Many give him credit for predicting the rise of Hitler and Napoleon, 9/11, both world wars, and the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Like most seers, Nostradamus was vague in his writings. His “success” was essentially based on misinterpretation and his reputation as a prophet is largely manufactured by modern-day supporters. Well, I don’t play that game. I’m a little more direct. I tell it like it is.

The Surfing Prophecies for 2010 are as follows:

-The Rebel Tour will not get off the ground in 2010. It will be shut down like Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg.

-CJ Hobgood will enroll in night school classes and learn to read and write. Sadly, all this new knowledge won’t make him any more interesting.

-The ASP will finally have a legitimate all-star event. Why not? Every major sport has one. And I’m not talking about a contest like the WPS All Stars held at Huntington during the U.S. Open. Half of the field consisted of Hurley surfers. That was a joke really. Do it right. Take the top 10 and have an online vote for an additional six surfers and send them to Tavarua or the Mentawais.

-Dane Reynolds will win his first WCT event in 2010 and finish in the top 5 in the final rankings. It might be at the Gold Coast or Bells, but it will most likely be at Trestles. He will also write a book titled “Playing the ASP Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit.”

-Kelly Slater will not win his 10th world title. In fact, he won’t compete full-time. I put the over/under on the number of WCT contests he surfs at 4.5.

 -Joel Parkinson will win the ASP World Championship. Mick Fanning will finish second and Bede Durbidge will drop out of the top 5 but stay in the top 10. After the one-year layoff, Andy Irons will struggle to stay in the top 32 but just make the cut. Owen Wright will not only win rookie of the year, but he’ll finish in the top 12. Out of the 15 WQS qualifiers only Dusty Payne, Brett Simpson and Wright will make the cut.

-Being conservative will be the norm rather than progression. With less spots on the CT (32 instead of 44) risk taking will take a back seat.

-A wetsuit manufacturer will finally realize it might be a good idea to make booties in half sizes.

– …Lost will sign Tiger Woods and the guy you buy weed from.

Surfer Magazine will only publish six stories about Miki Dora this year.

 -Vans will send out a press release to announce the first billion-dollar surf contest. Of course the “contest” will take place over the course of 20 North Shore winters.

 -The words El Nino will be written 1 billion times and hype about a “40-year swell” will hit in March. It will be slightly smaller than the February “40-year swell.”

 -Another major surf magazine’s parent company will file for bankruptcy. That same surf mag will contact Nugable about advertising opportunities.

-The yet-to-be-released 2011 Billabong team video Filthier Than Ever will win an AVN and the 2010 Surfer Poll’s best video award.

 -There will be more than 5 surfers in the top 32 without a major clothing sponsor by year’s end.

-ESPN’s surf blog will hire four additional writers. It will still suck.

 -And finally, Jamie O’Brien’s upcoming film Who is Job will change the way we look at surf films.

The Internet is Making Me Stupid

17 11 2009

Admitting you have a problem is the first step. The Internet is making us stupid. Everyone has a friend who constantly sends them useless emails. You know the guy who CC’s everyone he knows two to three times a day with bogus information aimed at people who think the liberal media is destroying the fabric of America? Ironically, these same people will believe anything that shows up in their email inbox. Retards.

Then there’s spam. I hate that too. And Twitter. And Facebook. Really, I could care less if you are putting the kids to bed or plotting to kill your neighbor’s dog. I really don’t need the update. Thanks. The Internet is a gigantic waste of time (except this site of course). It’s useless. I’ll bet 90 percent of the people who just read that last sentence are at work. Wasting precious work hours. The Internet is good for two things—porn and wasting work hours. No wonder the Japanese make better cars. They aren’t on Redtube and checking swell charts all fucking day.

Screw the Internet. I’m dusting off my Encyclopedia Britannica collection and getting rid of my high-speed connection. I might even subscribe to a newspaper. It’s probably considered a charitable contribution now and a tax write off. Additionally, I am going to kill the next person over the age of 13 who uses the phrase LOL. Spell that shit out motherfucker.

Let’s take a look at what we’ve “learned” recently on the Internet. Shall we?

-We found water on the moon and locals are pissed because Surfer Magazine already exposed three perfect pointbreaks.

-Barack Obama is a Muslim who wants to turn us into socialists. He wrote the forward to Mein Kampf and had a three-way with A-Rod and Kate Hudson last night.

-Now underground surf writer Lewis Samuels is in Tavarua counting barrels with Billabong executives. And he’s winning.

-If I boycott Exxon and Mobil, gas will drop back to 1988 prices, and Notre Dame will win the BCS Championship.

-The world title race between Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson has become so fierce their dogs aren’t even hanging out anymore.

-The People of Walmart have outstanding fashion sense. Billabong flannels are on sale now.

-I can gain six inches and roll my cock down the stairs like a Slinky in two easy steps.

-I met this super-hot girl online. She’s from Farmville, wherever that is.

-We finally found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Saddam Hussein is alive and well and is the favorite to play Magnum P.I. in a new film being distributed by the Weinstein Company. Carmine “The Big Ragu” Ragusa is pissed because he didn’t get the part.

-Osama bin Laden works at a 7-Eleven in Los Angeles and can’t make coffee for shit.

-Illegal immigrants are going to kidnap your children and make them gang-banging strawberry farmers and/or customer service representatives in India.

-Tommorow will be the swell of the decade. Magicseaweed, Surfline, Wave Watch and the guy down the street who doesn’t have to work is telling you so.

-French fries are laced with a genetically engineered drug that makes you gay and speak with a Massachusetts accent.

-The disposed prince of Nigeria has great investment ideas.

-It was recently announced Sarah Palin can not only read and write, but she also wrote a book.

Modern Collective will win an Oscar, a Palme d’Or and a Sundance award. The trailer for Billabong’s Still Filthy will win the Surfer Poll.

-I qualified for a great new mortgage today. I don’t have any idea what that means, but the payment on a 500K loan is just $13 a month. I can afford that.

-I can buy Xanex and Vicodin online. (Ok, I’m looking into this anyway.)—Nug

Who in the Hell is Travis Ferre?

29 10 2009
Travis Ferre

Travis Ferre logs some tube time in Mexico. Photo: DJ Struntz

You might not know the name now, but you will. Trust me. Travis Ferre is the new editor-in-chief for Surfing Magazine. Right now Surfing is documenting “what is now” in the surf world better than any other American surf mag. He was gracious enough to answer my questions about his background, the state of surf media and his enormous woody for the Modern Collective.–Nug

In April you took over the editorial duties at Surfing. Has it been a challenge to fill Evan Slater’s shoes?
No one will ever fill Evan Slater’s shoes. Evan would be disappointed if I only tried to fill his shoes. I’m trying to make my own.

What is your background? How did you find yourself as the editor-in-chief of one of the largest surf mags in the world?
I grew up in Huntington Beach. I started surfing when I was nine. Mostly because wax smelled good and my dad got me a cool little board shaped by Jeff Widener. I remember walking through HSS when it was on 16th street with my dad, wandering through, hugging all the rubber wetsuits and smelling the wax. I liked the lifestyle. It smelled good. I didn’t go to Huntington High School. I only dated their girls. I went to Marina High School. We were the Vikings. We almost beat Huntington’s surf team once when I was the captain.

My dad is an artist and a car painter. I couldn’t paint, but I liked to write. As I got older, I found out my dad’s best friend in high school was Chris Carter. He wrote the X-Files, but he started out as associate editor at Surfing Magazine. My dad always told me stories about their surfing adventures and getting in trouble and then how he went on to work at the magazine. I thought that would be a cool gig if emulating Kalani Robb ever failed — which it did.

I went to OCC (Orange Coast College) out of high school and traveled a bit with my friends, surfing and getting reckless. I decided I wanted to study English literature because you could drink while doing homework. I then set the goal of becoming an editor while sitting in my truck listening to an Interpol record. I transferred to San Diego State and that was really the turning point. I was sitting in a Shakespeare class, doing everything I could to relate that class to my future in surf writing when I sat next to Kimball Taylor. He recognized me from surfing Mission Beach and we got to talking. He told me he was a writer for Surfer magazine, I told him that I wanted to be an editor at a surf magazine. He tried to get me an internship at Surfer but they never called back. He then passed me on to Evan at Surfing and a couple days later I was in their office, writing stories for the website. Nathan Myers and Evan took me under their wing and I never left. Kimball still calls me Hamlet.

Print has fallen on hard times. Surfing and Surfer’s parent company (Source Interlink) filed for bankruptcy. The magazine even has a furlough tracker. Additionally, the recession has hit a lot the advertiser’s bottom lines, decreasing ad budgets. Is it difficult to produce a quality magazine that relies so heavily on advertising under these conditions?
Have you ever taken a furlough? It’s amazing. You take it on a Friday. Turn the phone off. Go surfing. Drink beer at lunch. Go surf again. You make happy hour. It’s the most inspiring thing our company has ever implemented. I’m so proud of them. As for making magazines right now: sure, it’s a bit tougher. The beauty of our crew though is we’re all young. We know no other condition. We’ll make you a 100-page magazine or we’ll make you a 300-page magazine. We don’t care. It’s going to be a good representation of what we’re into that month and it will matter. It will represent modern surfing. We’ll stay late. Work our ass off. Put everything we have into making it. We’re creative, we like the challenge.

Well there is the whole pay issue with the furloughs. But then again I think it was Nick Carroll who told me no one gets rich from writing about surfing (Except the aforementioned Chris Carter).
We’re not here to make money. We’re here because we love it. Sounds corny, cliché and predictable, but it’s true. We like doing this. A day off to go surfing so the corpos can get back on track is fine by us.

I preferred it when Surfing and Surfer were bitter rivals. They have been under the same corporate umbrella for a while now. Has this diluted the product?
Look at the December issues of Surfing and Surfer. They don’t even look like they were made on the same planet. The products are going their own directions and I’m fine with that. So is Joel Patterson. Joel and I make different products and for the first time in five to ten years, Surfer and Surfing have their own identity. We’re doing what we’re into. They’re doing what they’re into. And while we’re probably not going to send them donuts we shoved in our ass, our editorial staffs are pretty damn competitive. The fact that we’re under the same umbrella doesn’t dilute the rivalry much. We’ll get into a cocktail argument anytime but we’ll take furlough together the next day and it’ll be all good. They’ll ride Alaias and we’ll ride Protons.

Looking at the masthead I don’t recognize many of the names on the editorial staff, but I like what I’ve seen recently out of the mag. And I’m a fairly harsh critic. Is Surfing Mag like the 1972 Dolphins “No Name Defense?”
Sure. And Jimmy Wilson would be very happy to hear you make a football reference out of us. We’re all pretty unknown I guess, but we’ve had our share of Don Shulas on the sidelines to influence us though. Nathan Myers taught Stuart Cornuelle and I everything we know about making magazines, late night drinking and how to get shit done in this environment. He lives in Bali now but we still call on him daily.

Evan Slater passed down the formula of how to get a magazine of this caliber out on time each month. We’re just putting our spin on it now. We’re young. I’m 26. Stuart is 21. Our art directors are young. Photo team is young. We make a magazine for us and the people who are us happen to be our median age, so that works out. We do pride ourselves on that youthful energy, but we don’t intend on sacrificing the quality of the product.

We want to maintain a sense of sophistication, even if it is hidden beneath a bad word or Mitch Coleborn’s mustache. We don’t want to lose the legitimacy of the brand. We’re just here to make it relevant again. Lord knows anyone with a computer can be a critic, a journalist or a voice now. And we’re aware of that. Which is why we’re not afraid to make bold decisions or to run with a new idea. We’ve also begun to enlist new writers to the mag like Chas Smith and Jed Smith: young guys with guts who can write a good page. We like that. Guys who have a bone to pick with tradition. That’s why surf media has a tendency to get stale. It’s stuck on tradition.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Roundup: Rebels, Dane Reynolds, Supertubos, Mundaka Pumping and Jamie O’Brien on Cloud 9

23 10 2009


What is this? Two updates in one day? The Roundup is a compilation of recommended clicks in the world of surfing. The Rip Curl Pro Search Portugal is underway. Round one was completed earlier today at marginal Lagido. Still no Supertubes (pictured above). Round two features some good match-ups highlighted by Kelly Slater vs. Owen Wright. Dave Mailman is providing  the webcast commentary.

Will the South rise again? For now the Rebel Tour looks like a non issue. Shawn Price breaks it down. (Faster Times)

In typical fashion Mother Nature turns on the tap at fickle Munduka just days after the event ended. (Surfing Stoke)

Dane Reynold’s newish, lo-fi blog has an update from Peniche, Portugal set to county music.  (Marine Layer Productions)

Jamie O’Brien’s switch 10-point tube at the Cloud 9 Invitational in the Philippines. (Billibong.com/au)

Chas Smith is persona non grata in Peniche.  Exclusive photos of his investment banker. (Stab.com)

Long-time SURFER publisher Rick Irons jumps ship at the 50-year old magazine to slay the Dragon. (Boardistan)

This blogger has ideas on how the ASP can improve its online presence.
(Digital Surf Media)

A tribute to style featuring Tom Carroll, Richard Cram, Curren, Bob Cooper, Terry Fitzgerald, and Archy, Occy and MP. (Kurungabaa)

Aussie singer and actress Sophie Monk out Alanas Alana Blanchard. (WWTDD)

Surfer Magazine Review–September 2009

28 08 2009

The Bible has seen better days

Editor’s Note: The following piece was written for Likebitchin.com. Stab Magazine founder and gentleman of leisure Derek Rielly was kind enough to let me share my thoughts on the sport’s Bible.

Surfer turned 50 this year. It seems like just yesterday when they were celebrating 40 years. Who could forget number 40? Remember forty guys? Remember the time when you forgot how to spell forty and splashed the bottom of each page with “Surfer Magazine–Fourty Years.” And, you think the readers didn’t notice did you? Well, we did. But we didn’t care. We forgave you. Just like we forgave you when you sold out, went corporate, and teamed up with sworn enemy Surfing. But, that’s the past.

The cover shot of the September 09 issue pleases. The colors are vibrant. Red juxtaposed with burnt sienna and palm trees in the background. Imagine a smog-laced California sunset, the sky on fire. The reader can make out no less than seven prominently placed logos on Dusty Payne’s Merrick. But, you can’t judge a surf mag by the cover alone.

Let’s start with Curious Gabe. It’s the longest-running feature in the magazine (as far as I can tell), but does anyone really care that Sam George rides an SUP or that some cat named Nole rides an Alaia? If you are going to ask Sam George a question it should be one of two choices. 1) Will feathered-hair mullets ever go out of style? And, 2) Is your brother finished with the script for In God’s Hands II yet? Fuck, let me put down my soy-milk frapp and slip off my Birkenstocks because I don’t want to miss what a 56-year-old PT is riding. I’ll tell you what’s curious — that Surfer dedicates a page of each issue for a feature titled Curious Gabe. I’d rather see anything but a Curious Gabe. And, this includes another Pull In underwear ad or a Scott Bass think piece where he instructs readers on proper ball-shaving technique.

Charlie Smith makes an appearance in the September issue. Sounds promising? The concept is fine. Dangerous surf destinations like North Korea, Pakistan and Somali. Has top billing on the cover too. But, I begin reading and realize this 300-word piece must have been cut with a corporate editor’s axe. Reads like a Penthouse Forum piece edited by a bible-thumping Disney intern. To think Mr. Smith almost made it out of all these war-torn countries unscathed, but it appears Surfer slipped an IED under his bicycle and didn’t even have the courtesy to provide a prosthetic. Hopefully his baguette survived.

The profile of Joel Parkinson penned by former Tracks editor Sean Doherty is pleasant enough, but Parko isn’t the most interesting Australian surfer on the planet. Sure, Parko is well on his way to his first world title, but I nodded off after the third paragraph. I have paper cuts on my forehead and fingers to prove it due to the thinner-than-Shane-Dorian’s-hairline semi-glossy paper stock.

I grew up reading Surfer and I miss her. I miss her dearly. Where have you gone my old friend? When will I see you again? Like Santa Claus riding his sleigh, disappearing into the blistery winter nigh. On! Severson On! Marcus On! Parmenter and Hynd. Never shall we meet again.

Three-and-a-half stars.

Surfing Baja with David Nuuhiwa

10 08 2009
Nuuhiwa in Oceanside circa 1972. Photo: Drew Kampion

Nuuhiwa in Oceanside circa 1972. Photo: Drew Kampion

The first time I had an assault rifle aimed at my head I was just 14 years old. Each summer my father would take me to Mexico to camp and surf and on this particular summer afternoon we were headed for K55 to catch the remnants of a massive swell. The Federales stopped our van at a checkpoint just south of Puerto Nuevo. “¿Tiene usted cualquier fusil o las drogas?” (Do you have any guns or drugs?) I shook my head no, still in the crosshairs of the young Federale’s gun.

I was scared shitless. I had just gotten through puberty for chrissakes and I sure as hell thought I was going to get laid long before I had a rifle two inches from my face. After a quick search of the van they determined we were no threat, and more importantly, we didn’t have any guns or drugs (that I was aware of). An older Federale dressed in green, army fatigues came over, sweat dripping from his brow. “Justo surfistas,” he said casually, motioning us to move along with his rifle like he was directing a 747 on an airport tarmac with an orange light.

Fast forward seven years later. I’m relaxing on the porch of David Nuuhiwa’s trailer overlooking the point at San Miguel. The sun is setting over the big, blue Pacific. The island of Todos Santos in the distance. I’m down south with my father again, who had became friends with Nuuhiwa years ago. Myself, my Dad, my buddy Jason, who was on summer break from UC Santa Barbara, along with David’s friend/hairdresser (whose name I can’t recall) are talking surf, tipping back Pacificos and sharing a joint. Earlier that day we scored perfect 6-foot San Miguel. And I mean PERFECT.

David was relatively quiet that evening. His hairdresser/friend brought his trumpet and was playing old Mexican standards and a little Miles Davis. When he did speak I listened like he was the E.F. Hutton of surfing. “You got some good ones today kid,” he said brushing his silver pompadour-mullet with his hand. “I’ve been surfing here for years and I’ve never caught it this good. You’re one lucky sonofbitch.”

Recently, I was thumbing through SURFER magazine’s big issue and sure enough Nuuhiwa was named one of the 50 greatest surfers of all time, at number 31. To put this into perspective, Eddie Aikau was number 30. Looking at the accompanying photo, David hanging five in a soul arch in Huntington, I was reminded of the four days we spent together at San Miguel.

I haven’t been back to San Miguel since, not because I’m scared of the drug wars, swine flu or even banditos, but because I don’t want to taint perfection. It just wouldn’t feel right.