There is something about surfing and the culture/environment surrounding it that is nostalgic and summery, not to mention that the very act of surfing itself brings human together with wave and a board, providing a submission to nature and an experience that might be heavenly, or might be devastating, depending on what the wave provides in any given instance and how its rider goes with it.
Living on the coast of Southern California, I have fulfilled one of my dreams of life, which dates back to when I was living in the Midwest, perhaps age six or seven, and had pictures of Hawaii, surfers, and tropical plants postered on my wall--unlike friends who had posters of cute rock stars. So a few years ago I fled this way in anticipation of becoming a part of the landscape that I'd long dreamed about. I even took surfing lessons and drove around on hot afternoons in my old Nissan 240SX, listening to The Cramps' "A Date with Elvis" tape and hoping my board that stuck out the passenger window and went all the way to the backseats folded down, and into the trunk, would not knock someone's head off. I went to Thalia Beach, San Onofre, and sometimes down to Doheny Beach, never quite gathering the skill I'd hoped for, but it's never too late.
There is an art in surfing, and an art that captures that art. Living near Laguna Beach, and having also hung out in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach (San Diego), I am constantly surrounded by the designs that come with the area. Granted, Laguna Beach is not a tropical town, and in fact is a little beacon that sits right between the Pacific Ocean and the Pacific Foothills--after which, when heading East, one runs into the whole southern Orange County metropolitis, and then, basically, the Santa Ana Mountains and desert beyond. The dry and windy habitat just outside the ocean town of Laguna is not evident, very much, in the town itself. Laguna Beach is full of bright flowers, jutting cliffs, sandy beaches, ocean views, quaint cottages, art galleries, bead shops, cafes, cantinas, resturaunts of all ethnic food types, pottery shacks, vintage record stores (which still sell old vinyl by the Smiths, Devo, The Jam, and so on), private studios, new-age healing shops, psychic readers, temples, museums, exhibits, festivals, jazz sculptures, and, foremost: surf shops. The people who inhabit this fair town make up a melting pot and are primarily tourists, but also monks, saxophone players, bar-hoppers, musicians, artists, fancy older couples who dine at seaside and talk about France, gays and lesbians, children, readers, hoboes, and, mainly: surfers and other beachcombers.
What defines much of the city's atmosphere are surfboards, straw-thatched roofs, beach scenes, colorful paintings, marina-paranoma'd graffiti and murals, and Hawaiian-type helter-skelter. It is here that I go to melt, dream, sketch, write, read, and gaze. It is here that I know I can get the best pizza, enchilada, saganaki, Tandoori chicken, kateh, or sushi...you name it. It is here, basically, that a beach exists for any pleasure: boogie-boarding, sandboarding, short-boarding, long-boarding, and building sand-castles. It is here that I walk around and, with the ocean stretching in the background, listen to new-age monks play their bells and sing/chant or watch saxophone players and guitarists light up crowded corners and park benches with sounds that wave across the day.
Beyond it all is my old dream of course, being right on the edge of a continent, plucking the day or night in all its color, along with a multiple variety of food, liquor, and flower scents. Boards are propped in the sand, against hedges where surfer-bicyclists have stopped into a cafe for a drink or bite to eat, and heaved onto tan shoulders as men/women surfers skip to or from one of the several beaches along Pacific Coast Highway.
Being so content here, I've decided to slant this issue around the art and poetics of surfing. A personal thanks goes out to all the writers in this issue, especially Kevin Opstedal, who a couple years ago taped some surf music for me, and whose work is featured. Also, a special thanks goes out to Matt Scott, for his stellar surf art that graces this issue's pages.