Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Man who Loved Water

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who loves water more than Tim Palmer. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who loves the natural world more than Tim Palmer, who has authored twenty books on rivers, river conservation, mountains, California, the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite...etc. He grew up canoeing the waters of Pennsylvania, then bought a rad van (pictured in below photo), converted it into a mobile outdoor-lover/writer/photographer transport module, and set to exploring America's wild places.
Tim's as hardcore as it gets. He walks, runs, wades, backpacks, paddles, drifts, or floats every inch of his subject material. The guy's up before dawn each day, and has probably seen more sunrises than Robert Downey Jr. He is understated about his lifetime of adventures, but his speaking and slideshow tours always reveal some true narrative gems.
His new book, Rivers of California, is a gorgeous display of photography and writing at its finest and would make a great holiday gift for any nature lover. Check it here!
Our own Russian River even makes it into the edition.
Tim is currently touring with a slideshow. He's in Sonoma County tonight at Copperfield's Books in Sebastopol at 7pm. He'll have a mindblowing presentation, his new book Rivers of California, as well as some of his other offerings. They're all great. He can even sign one for you.
If you can't make it tonight, he'll be at Guerneville's River Reader at 7pm for the same deal. Still can't make it? Here are some tour dates.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Something Wicked This Way Comes

When the Weird sisters, foretellers of Macbeth’s fate in Shakespeare’s play of the same name, describe Scotland with, “fair is foul, and foul is fair,” they may as well have been talking about surfing the Northcoast. Surfers get absolutely jazzed about conditions up here that are, by most standards, terrible. Wind, cold, rain, wind, cold, fog, wind, thunder, whitecaps, monstrous sucking beachbreak dumpers, sharks, wind. Whatever.
The first year I surfed up here I made the mistake of bitching about the wind to another surfer as we hunkered in the lineup, sideshores blowing so hard we had to keep our eyes squeezed shut. “Not a big fan of whitecaps,” I confessed after an hour of this nonsense.
“Whitecaps?” he asked, spinning his board and clawing into an absurdly thick double-up. “Up here we call ‘em glassycaps!” he shouted, then disappeared over the ledge.
Several years ago I was checking a sandbar at one of our local beachbreaks on a typical day: windy, blown-to-bits closeouts, glassycaps galore, and not even the hint of an open face. Still, five guys were on it.
As I watched, absolute in my decision to head back home to a hot cup of coffee, all five spun on their boards and made haste to the beach. Not a common sight up here, but not an uncommon one, either.
“See a fin?” I stupidly asked one of the guys as we stood on the shore, squinting toward the ocean.
“Couple,” he said.
“Gonna pack it in?” I asked.
He shot me a what-you-talking-about-Willis face and said, “and miss out on this?” His hand gestured to the malevolent shorebreak, the pounders beyond unloading onto an ill-formed sandbar barely visible through the pea-soup air.
Five minutes later the five men huddled, agreed the two sharks were long gone, then paddled straight back into the fog. I made my way back to the parking lot, quickly pulled on my wetsuit, and agreed with the dude on the beach: who would miss out on this?
It’s not until the fourth act that the Northcoast/Macbeth parallel dissolves.
“Such welcome and unwelcome things at once,” says McDuff, the play’s moral champion. “’tis hard to reconcile.”
If he were a surfer up here, it wouldn’t be hard to reconcile at all.
This 9’something LB is for local shredder/teacher JL, stranger neither to The Bard nor our frigid waters. Shaping boards for teachers is a pleasure—these guys understand community better than almost anyone I can think of. Plus, you can say something like, “let’s screw our courage to the sticking place” when suiting up on a big day and they don’t think you’re insane.
Win win.
As per usual, all color is pigmented resin, and all glasswork by Leslie Anderson at Fatty Fiberglass who may or may not be making out with some dude in Alaska at this very moment. Much to give thanks for this year!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Semi-Conductor

Shaping boards for smaller waves is groovy. The ouija-board dance of wave, wavecraft, and rider is vast, and projecting what lines the surfer will take is an exercise in limitlessness—over the wave, under the wave, on top of, through, around, out, in, whatever.
It’s a different experience in the shaping room with a bigger-wave board on the racks. The lines a surfer takes on gun or semi-gun are more prescribed, the choices fewer. The drop. The turn. The race for the shoulder. The paddle back to the peak.
Rather than possibility, the bigger-wave board is about the experience itself. The fierce, watery thing of it. It’s about size, and about the fingernails-into-the-palms grip of fear and adrenaline and pure marine energy.
This 7’5 for MendoShredder BigL isn’t meant for the biggest our coast can handle, but rather for long paddles through coves thick with urchin-encrusted rocks and kelp. For thick, riotous masses of salwater pumping onto rock reefs that are about 600,000 years shy of perfect. And the cold of the Northcoast--not just the fog or the wind or the rain, but the cold of not knowing when the next cleanup set is coming through or how long you’re going to float, legs dangling, in water as dark as iodine for the right wave to come.
And, of course, the warmth: the joy and relief of putting the head down and feeling the unmistakable surge of water pushing surfboard. The moment when everything is crisp and decided, and the head only chants, quietly now, “go, go, go.”