West Coast cities do way too little to treat or effectively manage street runoff caused by average winter storms. As one source put it, we basically use the same technology for managing runoff that the Romans did: pipes and ditches that get polluted water to the ocean as fast as possible. This means gas, oil, heavy metals, insecticides, pesticides, viruses, and bacteria from animal and human waste are making their way to our beaches unabated. According to the Los Angeles Times, even super-bugs normally associated with hospitals are making their way into the system. Ocean use and tourism are some of the biggest economic drivers in the state of California. But swimmers and surfers are getting sick, some are even dying. As I found in my research, there are relatively cheap and effective infrastructure solutions that cities could put in place right now. The question is: why accept the current the 72 hour ban on ocean use after a storm? Why not work towards an ocean environment that is healthy most of the time? Read more about in my Surfer magazine article “Contagion Present.”
A few months ago I traveled with crazy Basque surfer Kepa Acero and Californian Dane Gudauskas to surf the central African coast. Thanks to the hard work of conservationists like Mike Fey, in parts of Gabon, primal forest still laps up on white sand beaches. Elephants and hippos walk on the sand, and at times, the land seems more wild than the sea. Surfer magazine made a short clip about the trip:
Galleys for The Coyote’s Bicycle are going out for review! The publication date is February 2016, and I’m tripping that it’s going out to the world after so many long yards!
“Kimball Taylor knows with love, no border is impermeable.” —Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway: A True Story
It wasn’t surprising when the first abandoned bicycles were found along the dirt roads and farmland just across the border from Tijuana—the area’s residents were accustomed to all kinds of refuse and detritus—but the bikes kept coming: mountain bikes, touring bikes, BMXs, and beach cruisers, all piling up, day after day. They went from curiosity, to nuisance, to phenomenon. But until they caught the eye of journalist Kimball Taylor, only a small cadre of human smugglers—coyotes—and migrants could say how or why they’d gotten there. This is the true story of 7,000 bikes that made an incredible journey and one young man from Oaxaca who arrived at the border with nothing but the clothes on his back, built a small empire, and then vanished. Taylor follows the trail of the border bikes as they make their way through a surprisingly diverse spectrum of society’s most powerful institutions, and, with the help of an unlikely source, he reconstructs the rise of one of Tijuana’s most innovative coyotes. Touching on issues of immigration and globalization, as well as the history of the US/Mexico border, The Coyote’s Bicycle is at once an immersive investigation of an outrageous occurrence and a true-crime, rags-to-riches, coming-of-age story.
The tale of my growing radiation fear as I traipsed through North Eastern Japan—meeting and interviewing local surfers—is finally out in Surfer magazine’s big issue. All of the contamination paranoia on the West Coast of the United States got me pondering the plight of surfers closest to the Fukushima-Daiichi meltdown. What were they thinking, I wondered. Pick up a copy and find out.
The annual Big Issue details the biggest challenges faced by today’s surfers.
Along with Alex Gray and Pete Devries, cover boy Josh Mulcoy struck gold on their exploration of the Aluetian Islands. Also in the issue is my profile of Josh, a surf wander whose flare for extreme conditions was almost predetermined.
I’d like to thank the good editors at The Surfer’s Journal for excerpting my essay “Margaritaville,” for issue 23.2. The piece details my visit with the Gulf Coast’s Sterling and Yancy Spencer during the B.P. Oil Spill of 2010. As soon as I arrived, a hurricane formed off of the Yucatan Peninsula, which meant unexpected waves but also that millions of gallons of crude oil could wash ashore with the swell. We surfed until it did. The story is printed in Drive Fast and Take Chances: Fair Warning from Surfers.
Excerpt from “Margaritaville,” an essay in Drive Fast and Take Chances.
I recently traveled to North East Japan where I interviewed local surfers on the anniversary of their triple disaster—earthquake, tsunami, meltdown—of March 2011. This is one of the few houses left standing near the beach in Miagi prefecture. The television skewed to the street caught my eye first, then I realized the house was missing walls.
This is a pile of cars and appliances from a beach neighborhood that were totaled by the tsunami. They were compacted in the clean-up effort, but the 20X300 ft. stack is just rusting away next to the beach.
The former neighborhood’s cars.
This is a shrine next to a great river mouth wave. Three years ago the view behind it would have been filled with houses.
Welcome to Fukushima prefecture. The geiger counter I held was slowly ticking upward.
This is a well regarded spot about 15 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The dominant wind howls off shore and the water is about 35 degrees C. Whoohoo! Here comes a snow flurry.
In response to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese government plans to wall off 230 miles of coastline with these enormous jacks. The scheme will likely alter the beaches of North East Japan forever. Local surfers are fighting the walls one locality at a time.
This is the “wave splitting shrine.” Standing on an average corner between a convenience store and a noodle shop, this shrine marks the place where tsunami waters have halted their inland march every 200 years or so. The shrine lists tsunami events that stopped here as early as 800 A.D. It admonishes future generations not to build closer to the ocean than this point. The warning was not heeded.
This is me and Yoko, a Miagi surfing elder. One local described him as a holder of one of the three rings of Sendai. I want to thank Yoko and all of the other surfers who shared their incredible stories with me. Look for the piece in Surfer magazine.
I also want to thank Pete Sawka (right), who was a great guide and translator. Here he is with his awesome friend Satoshi.
I’m so happy to announce that my new collection of surfer profiles is now for sale in Amazon’s kindle store! Check it out:
Drive Fast and Take Chances is a book about surf obsession. A collection of 15 stories from former Surfer magazine senior editor Kimball Taylor, each chapter profiles people fixated with riding, hunting down and discovering waves. From world big-wave record holder Garrett McNamara, to Johnny AWOL, the young surfer who joined the Army during a time of war just to get to Pipeline. Esoteric artist Russell Crotty compulsively documents California’s last secret spots in a volume of books few people will ever see. A group of Gulf Coast surfers chase hurricane swell in the midst of the B.P. Oil Disaster. Surf explorer Kepa Acero goes mad on Africa’s desert coast. Also included are legendary designer Bob Simmons, Irish slab-hunter Fergal Smith, three-time Maverick’s champion Flea Virostko, body surfing pioneer Greg Abbott, and cancer survivor Dean Randazzo. Cameos are made by surf satirist Sterling Spencer, father of the surf-school Dorian Paskowitz, and big-wave world tour champ Peter Mel. The surf mania relayed by these surfers’ stories is not always healthy and never prudent. At this level of commitment, there is only one piece of advice: Drive Fast and Take Chances.
In 1929, surfing pioneer Tom Blake built the first camera water housing to protect a Graflex camera he’d bought off of Duke Kahanamoku. Blake paddled out with the camera and housing resting on the deck of his redwood “plank” surfboard. The photos he made from the Waikiki lineup captured the experience of surfing in such a unique fashion, were seen as so novel, they were published in the LA Times and National Geographic. The invention of the camera housing would lead to images made from the bottom of the ocean to the heights of the stratosphere.
And it’s just one of the many advances surfers have made in POV photography. In Surfer’s big issue, I take a look at the phenomenon of self-capture that we’re living through now. Nicknamed the “selfie,” snapping one’s own photo, or POV, has been viewed as both pedestrian and cutting-edge. But given the ubiquity of POV cameras, will the strength of numbers lead somewhere new?