I am a Kook

A Kook is, but is not only, a person who is bad at surfing.

There are a million ways and reasons to be bad at surfing, but one of the kookiest, is to have no clue as to what you are doing wrong.

Perhaps the most kooky thing, is to make no effort to learn what one is doing wrong, yet continue surfing.

I am a kook.

I don’t want to be one, but there is so much I don’t know, that it will take a lifetime for me to get half a clue. That is my best-case scenario; one half clue.

I’m putting in an honest effort but there are obstacles.

For instance:

  1. I’m not a real athlete, I’m more of a beast. In other words I’m more made for smashing and lifting than I am for balancing or doing anything at a high speed. Or a medium speed. Or anything involving the word speed.

             Except eating.

2. I need to lose 50 pounds. I require a lot of buoyancy to counteract my displacement to equal gravitational force. In other words, It takes a lot to make me float. Maximum displacement does not improve surfing. But more than that, surfing requires a lot of paddling and other things that resemble physical activity and at least 50 pounds of me are in no way helping. Those 50 pounds are the guy who lives on the couch, eats from your fridge, but doesn’t pay bills.

3. I live in Rancho Kookamonga. Kook is in the name of the place. No, it is not really spelled that way, and no, the word itself isn’t REALLY the problem, but the geography is. I am at least an hour away from the beach with no traffic. Everywhere in California has traffic, and gas is expensive.

4. Money. It would be nice if I had more money, or if things related to me surfing didn’t cost as much money. I’d be happy with either solution, but as it stands gas, road tolls, wetsuits, surfboards, and TIME are prohibitively expensive. I have found ways to scrounge out some time (for now), tolls come in small bite sized chunks, but that board. I currently ride on the homemade generosity of an older board that has been beat up almost as much as me, it weighs as much as me, and while it currently helps get my oversized self upright on a wave, it pretty much only allows that. And I’m not sure how much longer it can handle this one job. Surfboards, the ones big enough for me, are expensive.

5. I’m getting old. Not just older, but I am solidly closer to old than young. I make friends with retired people. There are things my body could once do, that it no longer can, and when I try it hurts. Things always hurt. It doesn’t matter what I do, the pain just sort of shifts around depending on the activity.

6. Excuses. The idea that the board, or my geography, or the tides, are why I’m not a good surfer, are excuses that don’t really hold water (though unfortunately the board does indeed take on water). I should just eat less. I should find ways to earn, or save, more money. Eating less might help that. I think if I ate less I could be more of an athlete. I have known these aforementioned things long enough to have done something about them yet this list remains up to date.

But mostly I just want a new board. A magical one. One that would make me better.

And that is why I am a kook.

Because of 1 through 6, plus this last bit…

I intend to persist.

I can’t help it. I’m stuck. I’m snakebit. I’m stoked. Addicted. Hooked. I’m no good at it and it is still fun. It is fun every time. It is hard every time and once I think I have improved, something proves me wrong.

Every time.

And I have fun.

So I will be there this Saturday morning as the sun comes up. I will be trying to get better but battleships are hard to turn even when they have an able Captain.

And I will go down with this ship.

Living in Style: Brian Bent

Brian Bent is not pretending or acting. He is what, and whom, he presents himself to be. And he is great.

What he presents, is a hot-rodding rockabilly surfer circa 1968, or maybe 1953, I can’t pin down exactly when. You can find images of him all over the internet riding a checkered surfboard while wearing a striped shirt and captain’s cap, ya know, like the one Thurston Howell III wore on Gilligan’s Island.

The pics look great. But what is even better, is that on any given day you can easily run into Brian out in the lineup at Doheny or San Onofre, and he will look exactly like he does in those photos, and he will ride that log for all its worth. He can surf.

When he is done he will haul that log into the parking lot, load it onto a homemade hot rod, and head home to paint.

His paintings are what first caught my attention.

People have been paying attention to his art for decades. He is not new. His work is a loose mix of what appears to be fashion illustration, shapes, and storytelling. He renders spindly stylized characters like you might imagine would exist if Jack Skellington targeted the world of Gidget. He made a splash back in the 80’s when he was designing the interiors of the Becker surf shops and his work was eventually picked up by galleries. He has been and still is, producing.

Producing as in continually creating. Making. All sorts of stuff.

I met Brian as he and his wife were headed from the beach back to their car. I was (still am) just some soggy kook in a wetsuit hollering “Hey Brian” and they stopped and graciously listened as I told Brian I loved his art. He was gracious. They were nice.

Then last weekend he opened up his home for a “garage sale” and Mrs. Hammas and I went to check it out. The Bents were exactly as they appeared at the beach, super gracious, and their home is the best representation of a stylized life I have ever seen. They execute a designed life to perfection.

In front of their modest sized house is a teal, tailfinned car with anchors painted on the cab, then three steel home-made hot rods, and of course all the vehicles are outfitted to carry a surf board. In the garage are tools upon tools and a quiver of hand painted longboards next to a pile of banged up single tailed skateboards.

The house is a collection of mid-mod vignettes made up of furniture, instruments, and art. Skatalites played on a record player, easy going people not wearing shoes milled about the kitchen, and the Bents appeared sincerely happy we were there. They showed us around, shared a bit about their life, and went out of their way to make us feel comfortable.

And I was. Thanks to them.

This comfort came largely from the Bent’s authenticity. The 60’s, or 40’s for that matter, are long gone and most of us do not dress or design a life like the Bent’s so it might be natural to assume they might be a little… weird. Or act eccentric. But they don’t. They are, again, normal. In the best possible way. In the way that makes a person a real person rather than a performance. In a way that makes Brian a master of style rather than a relic.

Brian is not living in the past, he is living in style.

And I didn’t even get to his music.

Slightly Choppy: Scott makes cool stuff

Scott saw me gawking through the open door and invited me in. The studio isn’t in a general retail space, situated upstairs from a real estate agent, but he didn’t appear all that surprised to see a visitor. I suspect it happens regularly.

Scott Richards runs, or rather is, a company that produces hand painted nautical flags denoting the West Coast’s favorite surf spots.  I asked him if he considered these triangular canvas flags nautical, or if they are pennants, and he just shrugged. That sort of technicality, or rather strict terminology, does not appear to be his concern. He rather offhandedly added that he would suppose they are pennant like in their one sidedness but nautical in their construction, which tells me he has thought all of this through, he is not flippant, just casual and unconcerned. What is important is that he makes them, and that people, including himself, like them.

I like them too.

Scott went to art school and came out as a “visual communicator, the air quotes were all his. He went on to work with all the cool kids at the cool companies, Quiksilver et all, but has now decided to spend his time just making cool stuff. Less corporate, more making, and if you wander around his studio space, because he will let you do that, it is obvious that this guy is tactile. Little knick-knacks and block prints fill all the open spaces on shelves and in corners, objects and made images, the sorts of things that aren’t ads, but advertisers work hard to incorporate. This place isn’t so much projecting an “image” but is very much making the base level stuff on which images are built. It is hard not to love it. All of it.

We chatted a bit about art, about surfing (how I’m really bad at it), and a bit about business. He is doing a National Park series, all sorts of custom orders, it looked like things are going great but mostly they just seemed relaxed and happy. I left appreciating not just what Scott Makes, but enjoying the whole thing. Scott’s studio, the company, the company he keeps, the way he goes about all of it. It is materialism done right.

Less of needing and wanting more stuff and accumulating or winning- more of the taking what is tangible and crafting meaning and value.

For me, it’s Doheny.

International Surfing Museum: Huntington Beach, CA

While surfing is 100% a Hawaiian sport, it was California that exported it around the world. Whether it was Gidget, the Beach Boys, or Frankie Avalon who grifted the idea of surf culture away from Duke Kahanamoku or someone else, they did a great job of seeding said culture in the beach towns of Southern California. So now, surfers are thought of as blonde haired bros prone to using the word “dude” in places like Huntington Beach.IMG_5226

Huntington has embraced the image.

If you walk into the International Surfing Museum with a 10 year old child like I did, be prepared for the friendly woman behind the counter to do her best to convince the child to abandon any hopes of adult responsibility in pursuit of great waves- and to use the coupon on the back of your ticket stub for ice cream across the street. Her pitch almost worked on me but my child was unimpressed.IMG_5225

The place is small yet informative, with a good mix of information and artifact. There is a sculpture of the Silver Surfer, vintage Hawaiian planks, and a number of rash guards and trophies once worn or won by Eddie Aikau. Which is pretty much all you need for a top notch museum.IMG_5224

But Huntington’s offering is topped off by one large claim to fame, and by large, I mean Guinness Book of World Records large.IMG_5222

I normally ignore oversized objects mounted on poles outside stores, or museums, as props, but the giant surfboard mounted outside this museum once caught a wave and carried 66 people to shore. This seems about right.

To invest so heavily in an activity that is purely recreational for purely promotional purposes, is so very California. And I’m okay with that.IMG_5207

Petersen Automotive Museum: the art of the auto

Most museums are categorized or divided by type: art, history, geography, industry etc, and knowing this I expected the Petersen Automotive Museum to simply be a building full of car varieties. Ford, Chevy, Honda, Lamborghini, and so on and so forth. I expected old through new and broad representation. I went to the car museum the same way I go to the symphony- rarely, and expecting to appreciate but not necessarily enjoy it.

But I loved it.

It was all the types of museum mixed into one. It was history, it was an educational explanation of an industry, it was a celebration of of a culture, and what I loved the most, was art.

Bugatti is art. When I look at a Picasso the little placard could read something like “Portrait of Woman, cubist genre in the medium of oil.” A Bugatti could read, “Rolling Wave, art deco era, in the medium of car”.

Ferrari, a name I first learned from Magnum P.I., is the perfect marriage between art and function. No, that’s not quite right. Ferrari is art and adventure, style and unreasonable speed. Ferrari is as if the Italian sprinters showed up at the Olympic starting line wearing suits and ball gowns then promptly won every race.

I guess today’s children would appreciate seeing Lightning McQueen (he’s in the museum) the child in me appreciated seeing Herbie the Love Bug, Magnum P.I.’s Ferrari, Marty McFly’s Delorean, and the Batmobile all in a row. I suspect Kit from Nightrider is kept in the basement in order to prevent visitors like me from having a heart attack. That being said, I do consider it an oversight to not include Cameron’s father’s wrecked Ferrari from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in the Ferrari room.