Recent Publications

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.

IMG_1313This 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. The shrine lists tsunami events that stopped here as early as 800 A.D. I admonishes future generations not to build closer to the ocean than this point. It was a warning that wan not heeded.IMG_1231

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The annual Big Issue details the biggest challenges faced by today's surfers.

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.

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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.

Excerpt from “Margaritaville,” an essay in Drive Fast and Take Chances.

TSJ Issue 23.2

TSJ Issue 23.2

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Surfers Returned in the Wake of Japan’s Triple Disaster

I recently returned from North East Japan where I was investigating the lives of local surfers in the wake of the triple disaster of 3/11. 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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. The shrine lists tsunami events that stopped here as early as 800 A.D. I admonishes future generations not to build closer to the ocean than this point. It was a warning that wan not heeded.

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 a 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 stories with me. Look for the piece in Surfer magazine.

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 also want to thank Pete Sawka (right), who was a great guide and translator. Here he is with his awesome friend Satoshi.

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“Drive Fast and Take Chances” is now live on Amazon.com

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.


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The Big Issue is here again

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?

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Just Droppin’ In

Why, yes, those are wet wipes in my back pocket. No sense in roughing it. Photo: Grant Ellis, Mexico

 

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Notes on Camping the Way God Meant It: Illegally

Camping is just that much more fun when done where it’s not wanted. But, obviously, there are pitfalls to poaching a camp site. Here are some notes:

You’re camping at this spot because you love it.

But you may have to break the law to do so.

This presents problems.

Beware, the bushes may be full of people.

You’re just as likely to spook someone, as you are of being spooked.

More than three illegal campsites together is called a slum.

The negatives of not being able to blare music or light a campfire are balanced by the thrill successfully evading lifeguards, park rangers, military and security personnel.

Good places to hide an encampment are also good places for surfers to shit.

Tics have lime disease, hobos have knives, and your camping partner has crabs.

So, this isn’t boy scouts, grown men need to bring their own fricken tents.

One of you better bring a shovel.

In the lineup, there’s a quite confidence in knowing that you’re not a commuter.

But camping at your favorite spot can net you exactly zero additional waves.

And it’s a slippery slope, camping at your spot makes you something very close to a bum.

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New Surf Book Coming Soon!!!

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U.S./Mexico Border Transect

Surveying the landscape along Bunker Hill, I stopped to photograph another border monument walled into Mexico. Before the fences and walls, the monuments marked the border. I'm actually standing on U.S. soil but on the Mexican side of the wall.

Like a guest registry, the wall is marked with the names and nationalities of the people who crossed it. I am copying down some of their messages, including one from a guy who loves a woman named Aurora very much.

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The Spencer Legacy

“The Spencer Legacy

On the stands now! I profiled the Gulf Coast’s most prestigious surf dynasty, the Spencers. In response, Sterling Spencer created the video montage linked above. Getting a written response is cool, but a video is way better. Check the cover:

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Greg Abbott profile in TSJ

In issue 22.2 of The Surfer’s Journal, I profile renegade arborist and legendary body surfer Greg Abbott. For a good chunk of his career, Abbott worked as a seasonal life guard at the southwestern most beach in the continental United States. Working as a guard on the border line posed issues that, probably, no other life guard service has to deal with. Meanwhile, with his winters off, Abbott roamed the world perfecting his body surfing and delving deeper and deeper into a unique environmental perspective. A kind of Johnny Appleseed of the southwest, you may have come across native trees planted by Abbott. Maybe you didn’t notice or think about them, but that’s okay, Abbott takes a long view of keeping these species alive.

 

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