wb surf

my life in wrightsville beach, starting today

the last 24
Yesterday afternoon a northeaster was raging: big-ass waves, no real line-up, no telling where waves would break, horrible current, tough paddle out, deep overcast, and a chill in the 20 mph wind that made 60 degrees feel a lot colder.  The Oceanic was small; C Street was the place.  I was out for less than an hour: just too much hassle.

This morning the waves had cleaned up, the sky was still slate, the air temp was 55 degrees, the ocean was steaming.  (When the air temp is 20 degrees cooler than the water temp, it looks like steam is coming off the ocean. This only happens a few times a year.  It's especially cool with a sunrise.) 

The wind switches from NE to NW and finally to a clean west wind -- straight offshore.  The sun comes out.  I check the waves on a rising tide: what!? -- waist- to chest-high barrels at my back door.

This afternoon the ocean was alive: fish, big and small, jumping everywhere.  Dolphins lazily making their way north.  Pelicans, petrals, terns and gulls circling, diving, eating, hanging out on the pier.  A flock of terns would arc a certain way and the sun would hit them and it was like a burst of fireworks; arc a different way and they turned black.  Rainbows formed in the spray off the top of every breaking wave.  As the tide came in the waves lost a little bit of their hollowness, but became more makable.  As the afternoon advanced, people got off work, got out of school, and the amount of surfers doubled, tripled; but there were peaks as far as you could see in either direction.  It didn't seem crowded.  By 5:00 the tide was in and you could ride all the way to the shorebreak, which was pounding, just blasting.

Pics an hour later:

The trajectory's not looking good.

And what happened to that guy's head?


greg noll . . .

and Miki watched Surfers: The Movie together.  Noll: "Dora and I had both done interviews for Delaney . . ..  When we watched it, he almost brought tears to my eyes . . . he was so immersed in this film, seeing it for the first time, that he remeinded me of some of these old Hollywood stars who have their own projection rooms and will watch their old movies over and over.  Like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard.
     "His bit about life and all the bullshit going over his head while he was  shooting the tube is the best I've ever heard.  It's an absolute classic.  Anyone who's seen the film will always remember him for that.  I looked over at him -- he didn't smile a whole lot --  and he had this shit-eating grin on his face.  I could see his mouth moving as he spoke on the screen." -- pp.329 - 330

The rap starts at 0:45:

Sam George . . .
worked for Surfing magazine.  He saw Dora in South Africa and they got into a conversation about surf mags, California, "the great commercial conglomerate," etc.  Dora: "I don't understand why you're willing to suffer the sins of your fathers."  George: "Well, that's funny coming from you, Miki.  I've suffered your sins my whole life.  My whole life."  Dora: "I don't know what you're talking about."  George:  "Who taught you to kick your board at another surfer?  You invented localism.  You ruined surfing for the next generation.  You did it.  So don't talk to me about suffering the sins of my father.  I've grown up suffering from your sin, Miki."

All the fake airline tickets, bad credit cards, scams, petty larcenies, etc., finally caught up with Dora in the early '80s.  He goes to jail at the age of 47 --  no money, no waves, no nuthin'.  From the book:  "Deputy Padillas described defendant as 'the biggest crybaby and hypochondriac we have ever seen.  He refuses to do anything and won't even clean his own cell.  He always claims he is too ill to do anything, but is always the first to go out for exercise'."  --p. 269

"I called Lompoc.  He'd been released two days earlier.  His exit photo showed him with very short hair and a ZZ Top beard.  He looked like Rip van Winkle after the Apocalypse, or a wandering mad monk."  David Rensin, p. 276


right here, right now
It feels like I'm now living on the other side of the mirror.  Two weeks into my time here it was all about looking forward to waves, summer, new friends, the unknown --  and I couldn't wait to have it all unfurl.  Today, with two weeks left to go in WB, a heavy slate sky, a chilly north wind blowing -- I feel sick with . . .  not exactly loss, but with the end.  There will be a last wave, a final sunset, a few good-byes and an melancholic look or two at the ever-changing/always there Banks Channel, and then I'm gone. 

Not that I'm complaining.  Back in Atlanta I'll see family and friends I haven't seen for months.  There are birthdays and anniversaries and holidays coming up.  Pamella and I will be starting a new chapter together.  I can do some Bikram yoga again!  And, I'll come back to WB next year.  But for now, a little depression is not only inevitable, it's probably good for the soul:  although I've tried to be in the right here/right now/in-the-moment/these-are-the-good-old-days frame of mind for the past 6 months (and, I think, succeeding most of the time), in lots of ways, you don't really know what you've got til it's gone.

wish i'd had my camera
At the pier: another 65 degree day, overcast, NE wind, no one surfing, intimations of things to come.  Nothing summerish here.

While standing on the wooden steps behind the restaurant (facing the ocean) this afternoon, a brownish bird a tad smaller that a crow landed on the flight of steps above me.  He was clutching two packets of pink sweetener in his claws, which he stood on.  He immediately began to peck into the packet, and every time he withdrew his beak, a tiny bit of white powder would fly out.  Soon he had a fine mist of it on the top of his beak.  It wasn't Scarface, but it was pretty funny.

The Oceanic.

Cloudy and  65 degrees this morning when I went to check the (smallish) waves, wind blowing steadily from the NE.   It feels like fall: just a little too cool for shorts and a t-shirt.  Plus, the lifeguard tower's gone.

August.                                                                            This morning.

The feel of things to come.

"all for a few perfect waves"
Cliff Notes, from the author:


two sunsets ago


my face, week 18, and . . .
9 .16                                                                               9 .22

week 19
9 .23                                                                              9 .26 (Brooklyn)

week 20

9 .30 (Montauk)

just watched . . .
an episode of The Lawrence Welk Show (the last time I saw it, it was  broadcast live . . . woah).  I didn't realize what I've been missing.  The colors, the comic book set designs, the outfits, the hetero - gayness, the from-another-freaking-galaxy-surrealness, the surf connection!: opening the doors of perception to enter this rabbit hole is the most intense one-hour acid trip imaginable. 


mora dora
Da Cat - Miki Dora - Using his typically aggressive tactics as the crowds began to infiltrate his beloved 'Bu

"All artists are outlaws, but not all outlaws are artists.  if you're involved in your art, you're forced to be an outlaw because art dictates that you can't follow the rules.  Miki's life was his art and his art was his life, so therefore he had to continually be this outlaw in order to maintain that art form.  The art form was Miki Dora and the Miki Dora canvas of existence.  Miki constantly fine-tuned the business of being Miki Dora." -- Skip Engblom, p. 121

With that in mind . . .

"Miki would hang out at La Scala.  In those days, he dressed like Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief, with the black long-sleeved sweater, black pants, black socks, black loafers, and a great tan; that was his evening wear.  We could imagine him with Grace Kelly, driving around the Riviera."  -- Jimmy Ganzer, p.127

"One thing Miki loved to do was sit on the beach and if there were a few girls around, he would arrange his trunks so that his dong would be right there in the sand.  I guess anyone might do that if their dong made it to the sand.  It was such a casual thaing that most people thought it was natural.  But it was premeditated, believe me."  -- Ed Garner, p.136

C.R. Stecyk also placed Miki at numerous "counterculture rites including the Gas House in Venice to take in poetry and music, to hear jazz at Shelley's Manne Hole . . . to bet the ponies at Santa Anita with Charles Bukowski; to see Lightning Hopkins at Xanadu; to the Sunset Strip riots at Pandora's Box . . . to Topanga (photographer) Edmund Teske's . . .to the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco with Rick Griffin as a guest of Bill Graham . . . to greasy spoon breakfasts including one at Olivia's Place in Ocean Park with Admiral Morrison's son, Jim," and more.  -- p.137

"When the Beatles had a party at Alan Livingston's house in Beverly Hills, we both crashed.  We walked in wearing ascots, holding a drink.  We were dandies.  I stood around watching John Lennon and Groucho Marx talk.  Miki just wandered.  Later, he held Ringo's coat while he went to the bathroom, and he took Ringo's cigarette case.  That was his big souvenir."  -- Darryl Stolper, p.138


robin HOOD
From the play Jenny (with the Princess Leia doo) was in the past two weeks:


road trip
September 24 -- October 8. 
15 days.  Eleven of them with Pamella.
1,757 miles driven.
1,600 miles flown.
Three ferries ridden.
Overnighted here: Washington, D.C., New York City, Montauk, Atlanta, Tom's River, Virginia Beach, Buxton (Cape Hatteras).   
Flew from NYC to Atlanta. 
Traversed the Holland Tunnel and the Williamsburg and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges in NYC.
Got fitted for a wet suit -- in Brooklyn!
Items lost on trip:  day timer, down vest, lightweight wet suit jersey.  
Items found/recovered on trip: day timer, down vest. 
I get to buy!: a new wet suit jersey.
Best 20-mile stretch for town/landmark names: Assawoman Bay, Onancock, Parramore Island, Temperanceville and, finally, Modest Town.  Virginia is for (conflicted) lovers.
"Check engine" light comes on in Brooklyn.  Nice.
Saw 12 surf films.
Spent over $100 on tolls.
Only places surfed: Montauk and Rodanthe -- both knee-to-waist.
Remembered how much I hate Jersey "jughandle" turn-offs.  And I mean hate.
Visited the exact address where my father lived when he worked summer jobs in Seaside Heights, NJ.
Watched a thermonuclear sunset on the Outer Banks.
Witnessed virtual negative wave action in Seaside Heights: like a lake, a concave pancake, Kansas . . .
Made it back to WB alive, and without a criminal record.

from the ny surf film fest

mollusk, revisited

I went here during the weekend of the NY Surf Film Fest to get fitted for an Axxe wetsuit and forgot to take a pic.  A few days later, on the way out of town from LaGuardia, my check engine light went on in Brooklyn, at Metropolitan Ave.  I got off the freeway to find a gas station and didn't.  I kept driving down Met. Ave. to the river, where Mollusk is located, figuring I could take my pic and get advice on gas stations / freeway reentry.  Chris (who fitted me for the suit) was there and pointed me in the right direction.  Many thanks!

toms river, nj
WhiIe on the road, I really do eat at only the classiest joints (Jack Baker's Lobster Shanty):

"Gentlemen -- NO TANK TOPS"  -- a contradiction in terms, no?

in maryland
Within half a mile of each other: likker store wars!

virginia is for lovers
There's nothing like that special feeling I get upon driving into the state whose motto, "sic semper tyrannis" ("thus always to tyrants') is now a relic of its revolutionary past:

And there's always this.

if a picture is worth 1,000 words . . .

well, I've got 16,000+ of 'em (this is the blog version of home movies . . . yikes!).  Montauk, end-of-Sept., 2009:

Eating at the spiffiest place in East Hampton because almost everyplace else is closed during the offseason.  Not that I'm complaining; the food was great.

First morning east of the Hamptons, looking east from the White Sands Motel, stiff west wind.

Pamella's fave nursury in East Hampton.  A touch of Japan . . . $22,000.

Pamella getting a kiss from her (concrete) warthog.

Driftwood horse.

White pine almondeye.

Where we made two wardrobe purchases for Pamella, surf bunny.

Looking due east at the tip of Long Island.  There were some nice peaks, but they broke directly into the rocks.  I guess it could work on a bigger swell.

Pamella at the eastern end of the world.

I did actually get to surf Ditch Plains (a village east of Montauk), but, of course, the battery in the camera was dead, so, no pics.  The water was chilly, the wind was blowing, the sun was going in and out of the clouds, and I only had a thin wetsuit top, making for a brisk, abbreviated session.  The above is a reenactment of a hang ten that never happened.

Jazz great Percy Heath; Montauk man?  The plaque, at the lighthouse, reads:  Percy Heath, "The Fiddler," April 30 1923 ~ April 28, 2005, Tuskegee Airman, jazzman, fisherman, artist and friend.  Percy made the music of this place sing on his fishing rod and his fiddle.  "I've been around the world nine times and I don't want to be anyplace else but right here in Montauk."

Miz Pamella's son, David, came out (from the city) for the day.  Lunch @ Lenny's. 

Land shark!

Pamella fave Peter Beard has property on one of those headlands.

WTF!?  Near Montauk Point: A World War Two vintage radar station; a typical upscale Montauk beach house; a gigantic, yellow, fuzzy mouse with something on his head and the rusting bones and concrete of a house in the making.

celeb sighting, cont'd
AB was waiting at baggage claim. (Re: my description of him in the prior post: he's a very compact package -- almost falling in on himself, contrary to his . . . expansive . . . TV persona -- and seems amazingly slender from what I remember from TV.)  I had an accident of birth CD in my backpack (why?: who knows!).  I accosted him again, game him the CD, saying, "You might get a kick out of it."  He said, "Oh, thanks . . . but I don't have anything to give you."

Clearly, a southern gentleman:


I said thats OK, you've done the TV shows and I loved the "road" shows . . . I don't ride but I have friends who do and we all thought it was cool and he said thanks again and I asked him if there were any more road shows in the works and he said no and I said I thought they were great and he said he did too but you know the network didn't and I said bummer and then I got a little nervous because I didn't want to overstay my welcome and be a stalker and I said well I don't want to bug you see you later and he said ok and that was it.

I assume he's in NYC for this.

in flight to nyc
I got a freebie to use gogo, Delta's new in-flight web service, so I'm using it. 

First post from 38,000 feet:  a celebrity sighting.  Food Network's wacky, bike-riding, mad (food) scientist Alton Brown: alone, much thinner than on TV, leaning against the wall, head tipped down under a narrow-brimmed hat, in a dark suit, with a tan Burberry topcoat over his arm, brown shoes (it was all very Sinatra . . . except for the shoes: go with black). 

I said hello and that I liked his show (singular . . .  I should have said shows).  He looked me in the eye (we're about the same height) and said a subdued, clipped, non-wacky "Thank you."  I said something about it being a kick to see all the Atlanta locations in the show.  I asked him if he knew Alisa (Barry, of Bella Cucina).  He said, "No, I don't get out much."  I didn't ask him about his bikes or his on-the-road adventures, dammit.  Reasonably, he didn't seem to be in the mood to talk to strangers, so I mumbled some parting words and went back to my seat.

they don't even like . . .
Tags: ,

good morning, mr. dora

From All for a Few Perfect Waves, pp. 110 - 111:

Q:  You've been accused of being ruthless on waves.
A:   It's a lie.  I'm vicious.

Miki was so good he could kick out on somebody and miss their head by inches.  But most of the time he'd get people in the ankles or the shins . . .

I saw Miki pull guys off their boards by the hair and the shoulders, or lift the board from underneath and throw someone over the top of the wave.  He didn't need to run a kid over -- but he would.


me quote unquote
You tell me to shut up, and you hit me all the time.


dora, cont'd

"When [his father] left him alone, Miki would roam around unsupervised, in packs with other children.  He became a feral child growing up on the beach at San Onofre.  Not that he was antisocial, but he was unsocialized.  He didn't really know right from wrong, and he was brought up in a junglelike culture.  He lived like a wolf.  Or a cat.  Anything went.  The code was survival."  -- Martin Sugarman, p. 45

"Miki's mother gave me five dollars a week for food and we'd scrounge the rest.  Usually we'd pick up bottles from the beach, take them into San Clemente, and collect the deposit money.

"On the way to San Onofre we'd turn off at South Laguna and go to a small market that sold horse meat.  We'd buy ten or fifteen pounds and put it in the cooler and have food for two or three days.  As long as it had lots of garlic it tasted pretty good."  -- Dora mentor Merritt Stanfield, p. 45

Still on the wall at Malibu.


the ny surf film festival, finis
Films we missed, wished we coulda seen:

Madera, a short about Tom Blake's wood board-building technique.

Epic: A Savage Journey.  From the program notes: "Blustering locals, embittered soul surfers and homophobic professionals all fall victim to their own delusions.  Follow three different surfers as they babble their way into corners of hypocrisy and self-loathing, peeling away layers of misconception and phony facades like a rotten onion until there's nothing left but a rancid surfer.

Modern Collective.

Can't wait til next year.  Cheers!

the surfer's journal . . .
editor / publisher, Steve Pezman, from the Dora book (p. 35):  "People surf the way they dance, they way they act.  Personality is revealed.  When you're young and you're surfing, you can't imagine how anyone leaves it.  You're there early and you stay late, and the fire in your belly is geared around being there for the perfect moment.  In truth, you're there for all the moments, and you get the perfect ones and take full advantage only because you've been training through all the imperfect moments."

The perfect moment.

the new york surf film festival, pt. 2
Tragic.  Searching for Michael Peterson is the well-produced, gripping account of the rise and fall of one Australia's best.  After winning almost every contest he entered, after starring in Alby Falzon's classic film, Morning of the Earth, and after confounding friends and contest organizers with brilliance in the water and disturbing behavior on land, in the late-'70s MP began his descent into paranoid schizophrenia.  Jailed after being apprehended in a 15 car police chase in 1983 , he never surfed again.  The final current-day shot of MP as a bloated, balding, barely-there shell of a man, standing on the beach at a surf contest with his mother at his side, is beyond heartbreaking.

MP -- ghosts in his machine.

On a lighter note, Karim Rejeb's My Toys takes the surf aesthetic inside, rolling construction paper and carpets into waves and surf's them Mr. Bill style:  "Oh, Mr. Bill -- look out!  That gnarly grinder is gonna break on your head!"  For more of his art, go to Rejeb's website.

Back to a darker note.  Sea of Darkness is the doc of a group of early '70s surfers, conmen, raconteurs and drug smugglers who plied their trade aboard the Indies Trader in the early days of Indo discovery.  Some of them died, some ended up in jail and some lived to tell about it.  An edge-of-the-seat slide into a side of surfing few will experience.

Arguably, for most people (because most people will never surf), surfing is more about the art/photo/visual side of the sport than the actual act.  Hanging Five profiles five surfer/artists to get at why they surf, why they do (their widely differing styles of) art, and what their worlds are like when the two intersect.  Featured are Andy Davis (great, jazzy soundtrack), Julie Goldstein (winsome, whimsical, "the only girl out"), Alex Knost (photographer/musician), Tyler Warren (Edward Hopper goes surfing) and Wolfgang Bloch (found mixed media).  Pamella and I attended the openings for the most recent work of  Warren and Bloch when we were in San Diego this summer.

Andy Davis in his studio.

"surfing is . . .
even more transitory than climbing up or skiing down a mountain.  At least when you're done, the mountain is still there."

Stacy Peralta:  " . . . Miki had nothing to show for his art.  As soon as the wave is gone, it's done.  All the beautiful 'wave paintings' he did have disappeared."

"Surfing, then, is either one of the most courageous art forms, or the laziest; the ultimate in humility or narcissism.  Likely all of the above."

--from All for a Few Perfect Waves, p.16


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