July 2014

July 26, 2014

Fading West - Movie Review

It was another boring day at work, punching the keyboard and staring at my screen. But then I received an email about one of my favorite bands, Switchfoot, on tour to support their new album, Fading West. It turns out they wrote the album while also making a movie of the same title, so I watched the trailer and something about it put a spark in my mundane day that could not be denied.

They travel the world to surf and play music? Are you kidding me?! What a life! After dreaming about some of my own adventures I'd like to go on in life, I went and watched the movie...
"The dream would have been to be a pro surfer, but it didn't work out, so I'm in a rock and roll band instead."
Rub it in, why don't you, Jon Foreman? At least they shared it with us in this awesome movie. First off, what a concept! Surfing and music go together like pancakes and syrup; and if you're in a rock band that travels the world, why not go to really awesome surf spots while you do it? Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Bali and Southern California -- each with its own challenges and triumphs, but all worth watching.

Switchfoot with pro surfers (l-r): Tim Foreman, Timmy Curran, Rob Machado,
Chad Butler, Tom Curren and
Jon Foreman.
One of the biggest surprises is that the band is actually pretty good at surfing! They're not professional by any means, but I was impressed at their skill. But who wants to watch a surf movie with pretty good surfers? Well, why not call up Tom Curren, Rob Machado and some local legends to help out? They do, and it's awesome. Rob Machado was always one of my favorites though, thanks to his buttery smooth style, so maybe I'm biased....
In between the surfing are bits about their music, travel segments, as well as the difficulties of touring the world and being husbands and fathers at the same time. It's hard to be sympathetic when they are living such a dream life, but every profession has its problems I suppose.

Exotic locations, dangerous breaks and good music...overall, I'd say this movie is definitely worth the watch! Whether you like Switchfoot, or have never even heard of them, it's entertaining and will inspire you to follow your passions in life, especially if that passion is surfing! 
(Originally published on the StoreYourBoard.com blog)

July 16, 2014

Surfing and Fear

It was a rainy day after Thanksgiving, and a friend had tipped me off to an incoming swell that would hit our home break. I didn't expect much, though, as the beach we often surf is rarely outstanding, but surfing sounded better than Black Friday shopping, so I headed to the beach.
Apparently my fear of water is greater than my fear of people's opinions, because I ended up grabbing my sister's NSP (I like to call it the Butterfly Racer - pictured below). It's wider than my short board, which helps in smaller waves, but still responsive enough to do some carving. I wouldn't advise you to go out and buy one by any means, but I've been surprised at how much fun I've had on this thing.
Riding the "Butterfly Racer" at Trestles...don't judge me.

When I got to the spot, I was surprised to find a guy dropping in on a head-high left - a rare sight at this break. I watched a set come through (key to paddling out on days like this) and headed into the water.
It was an amazing session: big lefts, hardly anyone on the water, mist off the white caps and a little rain all led to a memorable morning. Towards the end, however, my friend and I decided to paddle over towards a groin where some folks looked like they were getting some nice right-handers. This is when the fear set in...
We were sitting on glassy water pretty far out when I saw a set approaching. The water got shallow beneath me as the oncoming wave sucked the ocean right up into its lofty hallows. As I examined the growing bulge of water that approached me I literally thought, "this could be the biggest wave of my life." I paddled, asking myself whether I could survive the wave: Would it close out on me? I hate dropping in on steep closeouts. If I paddle for this, I'm just going to go over the falls. Do I really want to deal with that right now?
Those were the thoughts that ran through my head as I paddled and, as fear won over, pulled out. I then watched the wave move past me as my friend caught it. I can't remember how long he rode it, or if it closed out on him, but what I do remember is that I felt like less of a man at that moment.
I keep this issue of Surfer up at my desk as a reminder to not live in fear.

So how do we conquer fear? I found a great blog post about it that gives three basic principles:
Courage is a big part of surfing. "Normal" people don't paddle out into walls of water twice their size for nothing but the thrill of riding or conquering it. It takes a lot of courage to face something bigger than yourself. For some this is just coming to terms with sharing the same space as the predators of the sea, and for some it's riding the heaviest wave in the world. Both take courage, and both are well-worth the risk.
  • Share your fear with others
  • Concentrate on breathing
  • Catch a wave!
Check out that link for a short elaboration on each.
For me, this will forever be the "wave that got away." Whether or not it would have been a ride worthy of that title, I'll never know. But what I do know is this: a life lived in fear is a life lived in bondage, and sometimes the only way to recognize that is through missed opportunities and missed waves. What you do with that knowledge is the real test of courage.
Any epic waves you've missed? What about a wave you're glad you took? Let me know below!
(Originally published on the StoreYourBoard.com blog)

July 7, 2014

Surfing and Music

There's nothing quite like driving up the Pacific Coast Highway and listening to Jack Johnson to me; or riding with friends to a foreign break, jamming to Sublime as we anticipate the unknown session ahead. Music and surfing go hand in hand, and so I thought I'd examine the sounds of surfing as a little history lesson, and to inspire your next ride out to the beach.
Music is a tricky thing in that it's tough to pin down where a certain genre began, usually starting in some hole-in-the-wall club where another artist hears it and then makes it popular. As far as we know, one of the major pioneers of surf rock is Dick Dale, who claimed that signature lead guitar sound found in his most popular tune, "Miserlou."

A parody of surf music from the film "Top Secret!"

This instrumental sound continued for a few years before acts like the Beach Boys and the Surfaris added their multi-part vocal harmonies to really nail down that 60's surf sound. You know, songs like "Surfin' U.S.A." and "Wipeout." Theirs was the peak of popularity for the genre, but as surfing is a bit rebellious in nature, so goes the music; and as this music got popular, there was some push back from local surf communities who thought the mainstream sound didn't necessarily capture the essence of surfing.

As time went on, surf music went more underground, finding its way in punk rock throughout the 70's and 80's. By the time the 90's came around, punk remained, but reggae mixed in, resulting in bands like Sublime, Slightly Stoopid and the Orange County Supertones. Ska (the punk/reggae genre) arguably had its biggest cultural influence during the Third Wave of the 90's, with the epicenter being in Southern California. So it's no wonder why the genre fits so well with the skater/surfer culture we all love and enjoy.
Photo courtesy of www.thecavanproject.com
As we entered the new millennium, one man rose to the forefront of society to define a genre that became synonymous with beach life: Jack Johnson. I'm sure he wasn't the first to invent that laid-back acoustic style, but he was certainly the one who made it popular. And coming from a background of surfing and surf filmmaking, his music naturally fit the sway and sounds of the ocean.
Things have changed a little since then, but this reggae-influenced, easy-going style is still the sound of summer for me and many like-minded surfers. Mixed with the ska I grew up listening to, these are the songs you'll hear in my car as I head to the beach. I'll be drumming on the steering wheel, maybe singing out loud and with a board on the roof. So if you see me, give me a wave, sing along and follow me to the beach!
(Originally published on the StoreYourBoard.com blog)

July 1, 2014

Working Hard or...

...killing yourself?
This commercial premiered during the Olympics, and I just can't get behind the message...

He says we don't work hard for stuff, but because we're "crazy driven." I'm all for drive, accomplishing goals, devotion and discipline; but you always have to count the cost.
Here are some statistics from Washington Post:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Americans work extreme hours, averaging 50 or more hours per week. Compared to 1976, the average American works about one month more a year...leisure and sleep time have fallen steeply for those with college degrees...Gallup estimates that 70% of all workers are disengaged from their jobs, costing between $450-$550 billion each year in productivity. Most employers voluntarily grant American workers two weeks of vacation, and in a telling annual report called the "Vacation Deprivation" study, travel company Expedia found that Americans didn't use 577 million vacations days at all last year.
So we're not really all that driven as a whole, we just work a lot. And so I ask again, for what?
Having a kid and working a couple of jobs right now, I think a lot about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it, particularly when I'm sitting in traffic for two hours a day (gives you a lot of time to think). Of course it's to keep my family alive, fed and with good health insurance. But when I'm away 11 hours a day to accomplish that, I have to wonder if there's a better model...
Father and son fishing (photo by Gregorius Suhartoyo)
In an interesting article on the feminization of education in America, Brett McKay says:
During the pre-industrial period, a man’s home was also his workplace. For the farmer and the artisan, “bring your kid to work day” was every day. Father and son worked side by side from sunrise to sunset. Fathers taught by example, not only apprenticing their sons into the trade, but subtly imparting lessons on hard work and virtue.
I think that's the ideal -- the family working together for the survival of the family; everyone contributing through hard work and time spent together.
The flip side of this system, though, is that children are pigeon-holed into the family trade, leaving little-to-no room for creativity or exploration. I don't want to do that, but I would like to be able to work alongside my family, if for no other reason than spending more time with them. I guess there has to be some kind of balance between work and family life, ambition and down-time with those I love. I haven't found it yet...have you?