Tag Archives: San Francisco

Rip Curl Pro Search wraps up “Somewhere in San Francisco”

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Yes, Gabriel Medina claimed the win at this year’s Rip Curl Pro Search event, held in the ultra-secret San Francisco. Not only did he take home the trophy, money and points, but Gabriel’s second win on the 2011 World Tour earned him heaps of respect, praise and confidence. Most importantly, his win gave legitimacy to the half-year reshuffle that so many have rallied against.

Gabriel (I refuse to call him “Funky Cold”) Medina bested Joel Parkinson in a seasick final at Ocean Beach. If you have your own horror story of surfing in chunky conditions at Ocean Beach, then Monday’s final was familiar ground. Gabriel surfed through the heavily textured conditions with absolute grace and precision, linking together turns and sections as if he were surfing any other righthand point break. In an amazing display of good ol’ fashion hook-in-the-pocket surfing, Gabriel silenced anti-aerialists, naysayers, anti-Brazilians and other critics by winning the final on his ground game alone.
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In other news, some young whippersnapper named Kelly Slater won his eleventh World Title in San Francisco, then didn’t yet win it, then won it again a few days later. If it’s to be believed, Kelly himself found the error in calculation that handed him the title before he really earned it. In any event, he earned it in spades this season and won it for good in his round four heat against Gabriel Medina and Miguel Pupo. More impressive than his heat and title win was his after buzzer victory lap that sent him hurtling through the longest barrel of the event, only to come shooting out the end section long after most had written him off. Thanks again for the show Kelly. You truly are the people’s champion.
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Beyond Kelly’s title and Gabriel’s ascendancy, one of the other major highlights of the event was Pat Gudauskas’ round three victory over Jordy Smith. Gudang stuck a gorkin flip halfway through the heat, earning him a solid lead and an ankle fracture. He paddled in just seconds later, leaving Jordy out the back with almost 13 minutes left on the clock. Thanks to Pat’s mixed bag of luck, Jordy was unable to put together the necessary score to move on, leaving an empty Gudauskas sized vacancy in rounds four and five.

So how was San Francisco overall? Rip Curl and the world’s best surfers put on a great show, despite the ever changing conditions. But… I think many (other than San Franciscans) would agree that it’s a venue that need not be revisited any time soon. If online polls are an accurate indication, fans want to see more of the flawless perfection of the 2006 Rip Curl Pro Search, when they took us “Somewhere in Mexico”. Wherever it ends up next year, all are looking forward to the excitement of a new location and a great show.

Style of Another Kind – Daryn McBride Surf Art

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For some reason I can’t get off this surf art kick.

It may have to do with the spring season in San Francisco. The spring in San Francisco is a windy affair. Unlike the cold and wet winter, the spring is clear, sunny, and windy–onshore to be precise. This inevitably leads to some problems. The most obvious one is a stormy soup of waves at Ocean Beach. The other problem is that you wake up in the morning, look out the window to a bright sunny day with an expanse of sky blue sky. With a giddiness usually reserved only for hot tropical climates, you put on a t-shirt and shorts, slip into flip flops, and prance outside to find the wind is whipping off the Pacific at 60 knots. This is not the dry heat of Santa Ana winds I grew use to in San Diego–this wind feels like it’s been shot through the butt of a polar bear and cycled through the crevasse of an iceberg.

So that is how we ended up here talking about art. This is Daryn McBride styling some tubes on canvas. Best enjoyed with soupy and blown out conditions.

Kassia Meador: The High Priestess of Surfing

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Kassia Meador is “The High Priestess of Surfing”

Aside from being one of the three women featured in Thomas Campbell’s new film, The Present, Kassia graced the stage of the Victoria Theater in San Francisco for the premiere of the film. Superficially, she was on stage to pull out raffle tickets, but in reality, she was there to remind us that gods do still walk among us mortals. Her bright smile whitewashed the walls of the old theater and eroded the salt-corroded hearts of the mortal surfers who gazed upon her. If only everyday could be filled with her toes on the noses in the waters of Ocean Beach. The warmth of her eyes would warm the frigid waters so we could leave our 4/3s in the car; her pleasantly placed high cheek bones and hipster demeanor would scare all the great whites out of the area; and, her surfing, well, we would yield every set wave to watch her lift a leg off the nose of the board like a stately white crane.

For these reasons and the many more beyond inadequate words that we enshrine Kassi Meador as “The High Priestess of Surfing.”

Naked Bodysurfing: San Francisco Defies Attempts to Kick Caricature

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San Francisco is San Francisco because it is San Francisco. There are times when this fact is unavoidable. It is impossible to deny when you encounter a caricature of a caricature. Let me explain.

Spring arrived with a cold wind in San Francisco at the beginning of March. With clear blue skies and a harsh whipping onshore wind, surfing Ocean Beach was comical. But, the wind abated the last couple of days and allowed the sun to warm the city to a pleasant 60 degrees. Me and my housemate peddled with fins and a wetsuit to do a little bodysurfing at Baker Beach. A small sandy beach nestled in the middle of Land’s End and the Presidio with the Golden Gate Bridge to the east.

Images of bikinis and clean beach breaks muddled our minds as we crossed Geary and headed towards Sea Cliff. And of course, when we arrived, we found both; two young fawns in bikinis laying out on a blanket in the foreground and clean heavy beach break in the background. A beautiful bright Friday afternoon in the central coast.

We pushed our bikes east up the beach to the beach break that looked most makeable.

“Ha! What a day.”

“Couldn’t ask for much more…”

“Lot of people on the beach today.”

“Yeah. Today is the definitely the first day of spring.”

And so it went.

I looked up to measure our progress when we encountered the most percuilar thing: A man with a black shirt roled half way up his belly staring intently at us. He walked across our path never averting his gaze. He also didn’t seem to mind as much as we did that he had no pants on and his junk was swinging jubliantly in the sun.

I then began looking around more carefully at the people around us on towels. They were all pretty much naked and pretty much dudes. I had stumbled inadvertently into a nude beach (a friend in the city said that any end of a beach in San Francisco is a nude beach). And now I know that no nude beach in San Francisco is complete without a game of volleyball. Two full teams of twelve dudes, twenty-four balls, all jumping up and down, the sun reflecting off the warm sand, and not a single pair of pants.

“How did this happen? Could this actually be happening? Did you know about this? And why the hell is there a zillion wangs and none of their counterparts? Oh, wait…is that one?…UGH! Don’t look over there either!”

This is what I mean by a caricature of a caricature: San Francisco is the only place where not only this could happen, but it is almost expected to happen. I should have realized that San Francisco is constantly trying to remind me that it is San Francisco, that all the stereotypes come true at some point (I was at a bar on Monday where some girl was reading poetry about kissing her mother’s breast while a man and woman in black spandex did an interpretive dance of kissing her mother’s breast).

And in the spirit of naked volleyball at Baker Beach, in the spirit of affirming stereotypes, we changed into our wetsuits without towels and went bodysurfing in sandy beachbreak closeouts.

Deviations in California Surf Culture

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Whether the blame lies on the inherent nature of stereotyping or on the media-washed portrayal of subcultures, a closer look at any sub-community reveals deviations within, so great sometimes, that it startles the senses. “How did I ever swallow such a blatantly obvious apocryphal story?” The surfing community with its own set of cultural signs and signals is no different.

The surf community in Southern California has its own unique surf culture that lives and breathes its own unique signs. With the heavy influence of industry mammoths like Rip Curl in San Clemente and Quicksilver in Huntington Beach, the scene is dominated by surf labels. Surfers in these areas adorn themselves in the gear and products marketed in their area. They embrace the attitude and lifestyle of their home. Furthermore, a more unfettered glimpse of Southern California reveals particular deviations. A surfer in Ventura uses specific signs and symbols that deviate from the signs and symbols of a surfer in Encinitas.

Moving north to Santa Cruz, further deviations are present that distinguish its own surf culture. Again, influenced by large surf companies like Santa Cruz Surfboards, O’neill and Hotline, the surfers of this area identify with these local labels. There is an obvious similarity between surfers in So Cal and surfers in Nor Cal, which is differentiated merely by the surf companies in the local area. But uniquely, Santa Cruz has a further derivation: the vato surfer. Usually localized on the Westside of Santa Cruz, these surfing cholo-vatos wear chinos, plaid jackets buttoned to the neck, and straight billed red Santa Cruz Surfboard hats. A twisted blend of narrow-minded protective redneck culture, a sprinkling of drugs and alcohol, topped off with gang-like affiliations and brotherhood.

Even further north in the city by the bay, San Francisco surfers are nondescript. They blend into the social fabric of the city at large. Outliers do exist who embrace the surf products of the industry, but the majority of them are indistinguishable from the North Face fleeced, Patagonia down jacketed, and twirled hipster mustached inhabitants of the metropolis. It requires a strong magnet like the premiere of a surf movie or a large ground swell for these individually dispersed ions to coalesce into a community. Yet, each person, remains somewhat distinct and unique within the ebb and flow of the community.

These are just a few of the many deviations within surf culture. Although contact with some of these sub-genres of surfing remain elusive, they thrive in their own unique way. Surfers in Texas, the wave gliders of Australia’s Gold Coast, dedicated polar bears of the Great Lakes all latch to certain unique signs and symbols to establish a unique character of their own. Continually gazing at surf culture through the narrow keyhole of surf industry marketing, advertising and magazines solidifies the superficial idea of a unified and clearly delineated symbol-adorned “Surfer.” This is a paltry slice of surfing.

Removing the blinders, traveling to new destinations and new waves, actively looking at the surfers around you reveals a much more vivid and rich community. Not doing so will lead to a vapid existence; doing so will expose what really connects the community. It is not the label or logo, but that certain sparkle in an eye or a slight smirk at the knowledge that what we do share is as large as an ocean and as definitive as the sun setting in the west over a blue-green salt water playground.

“The Present” in San Francisco–A Surf Movie Review

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March 27th was the first day of Spring in San Francisco. A hot sun angling toward the Pacific and the small tickle of wind on the brow demanded that everyone in the city leave their apartments and head for the nearest grassy park. These kinds of days are few and not to be wasted. With some tallboys in street cozies, a couple friends and I swaggered from the outer Richmond through Golden Gate Park to the Victoria Theater in the Mission to watch the premiere of Thomas Campbell’s newest 16mm surf/art film, The Present.

The sun worked its course on the day as we strolled through the largest public park in America. The grassy knolls and slight depressions of the park were littered with parties; forty-seven parties to be precise, all complete with food and beer. And it was in this sun-drunk and pleasantly imbibed mood that we arrived at the theater for the premiere.

We found seats at the front of the hall and sat down as the musically inclined yet mathematically deficient–The Mattson 2 (there were four members)–finished their set and the director took the stage. Thomas Campbell is an artist and filmmaker based in the Santa Cruz mountains who now lays claim to three surf movies (The Seedling and Sprout). All films have been shot on 16mm and released by Woodshed Films–think Jack Johnson and the Malloys.

Campbell was at his most eloquent when he introduced his film: “We are all lucky to be surfers and have the privilege of having an ocean experience. There are a lot of people in this world who never get to have that experience–some people don’t know that. This film is an ode to how lucky we all are.”

So what is The Present? It is an attempt to document the lighthearted joy of surfing, and the experience of sliding on boards of all kinds on waves all over the world.

The Present is Joel Tudor, “The Minister of Change”, detailing why Dora, Edwards, Curren and Lopez are the four most influential surfers of the modern era.

The Present is Dane Reyonlds punting big airs (“Dane is like Kelly but with hair and no Pamela Anderson thing”).

The Present is Alex Knost dancing to hand drums with women in South Africa.

The Present is the alaia. Some of the best footage to date of surfers really laying it down on alaias. The Molloys on alaias at big, really big, Waimea. And, of course, Machado going faster and smoother than anyone else on an alaia.

The Present is the era of women dropping into heavy 18 second barrels that would make most men quiver in the fetal position and wet the bed.

The Present is some weird silly game show where one Malloy rides a board with a ladder attached to it, Knost rides a board with an exercise machine from the early nineties nailed to it, and another Malloy jumps out of coffin on a board while riding a wave.

The Present has its moments of artistic flourish which at times inspire, at times confuse, and at times arrest the movie’s trajectory. Sometimes the narration detracts from the images on screen. But, what you can’t say is that The Present is drab and unoriginal. After three years of filming with his own money, Campbell released a piece of art that in many ways looks back to the days of Bruce Brown when surfers traveled in suits and the director narrated the story, yet embraces this moment in history, this moment in surfing. Campbell asks each viewer to think a little bit differently about their established notions of what a surfer is and what a surfer should be doing, saying, or riding.

California Tsunamis: How Little I Know

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When I first saw this tsunami warning sign at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, I thought it kind of ridiculous. I had never heard of a tsunami in California, and I assumed it was just another instance of local governments protecting themselves from the litigation-happy populace (which is probably still true). I figured they wanted to cover all the bases, and protect themselves in case some freak act of nature brought a tsunami to our shore. And this seems sort of logical considering that we do live in a time when nature is pretty unpredictable–i.e. Katrina and the 73 degree weather presently blessing the residents of San Francisco in January.

Furthermore, I found the sign a little absurd. Wouldn’t the most logical thing be to run to high ground if you saw a 20 foot wave coming to shore? You wouldn’t run to the wave. I guess it’s just another instance of common sense not being that common.

Before I decided to level some sarcastic and belittling judgment on Joe Public and the City of San Francisco, a little research was in order.

Low and behold, the Internet provided the answers against being a skeptical douche. The State of California’s Department of Conservation website has a Geological Survey dedicated to tsunamis. And, yes, it does seem that there is some possibility of a Tsunami striking Ocean Beach based on evidence from the earthquake off of Cape Mendocino on April 25, 1992.

The Moral: Do your research before you become a skeptical douche like me.

San Francisco’s ‘Fort Point’

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Fort Point is an epic surfing stage where visiting locals and tourists get a chance to see surfing up close and personal. With the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin headlands as the backdrop it’s almost impossible to not get great photos, too. The wave can be epic – from small, soft peeling lines unfolding all the way around to pumping double overhead barrels spinning off the tide. It’s the tide swings that make surfing here a little sketchy for those unfamiliar to the break – best on out-going tides, sitting on the peak can be trying as the current seems to want to pull you out the gate and out to sea. You have to watch out for “Rhino Rock” too (you’ll see it in the clip) as it sits on the corner of the break sucking dry on occasion. Story has it, a ripper from the past tore the side of his face off on this rock. You don’t generally want to select your sweetest board to surf on here as getting in and out of the water over slippery barnacle-covered piles of rock proves ding-worthy. As you can imagine, it’s crowded, too. Being protected from most winds, and able to clean up big raw swell, it’s the place to go when Ocean Beach is crap.

Did You See Any Sharks This August?

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Well what do you know –August passed, and San Francisco and Marin were full of shark sightings. For the average resident or tourist, a summer shark sighting may be a tragedy; calling halts to all summer-rentals, tours, and outings. However, for the avid surfer of Marin waters a shark sighting in August is what we on “the in” like to call the norm.

If it seems like Marin and San Francisco have shark sightings EVERY August you may be correct. As the surface water warms in the summer months (typically late August), a plethora of plankton and fish conglomerate to the area. Due to this, other sea mammals come in to feed – in turn the sharks follow their prevalent prey. Although true Marin surfers will say that most sightings occur in August because there are more beach-goers looking to spot them, researchers state that the population of Red Triangle sharks drops one-tenth in the cooler months – thus, there really are more sharks in NorCal in August. So if you’re really freaked out about sharks, just remember that your odds of getting hit by one just dropped by ten percent, because August came and went already. You’re welcome.

Note: The Red Triangle is a coastal region of NorCal consisting of the waters between Bodega Bay, San Francisco, and the Farallon Islands – ummm…sharks live here.

Surfing in San Francisco: FT. Point

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Surfing Ft. Point is mostly experienced during the Fall/Winter season when BIG n’ Raw Alaskan swells need organizing and protection from wind, but on occasion we get strong enough pulses during foggy Summer to turn ‘The Point’ ON. Go ahead and Google ‘Ft. Point Surfing’ images for very picturesque photos and videos. This photo, courtesy of Jayms Ramirez (whose site you should definitely check out), captures the essence of a summer swell moment at Ft. Point. Variety is the truly unique aspect of San Francisco surfing life – an hour’s drive North or South will almost always net you waves on any given day – but sometimes the best waves are right under your nose.