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?
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.
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:
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.
The assignment given to photographer Grant Ellis and I for the Big Issue, was to simply fly to Madrid and meet up with manic traveler Kepa Acero. From there, we would go anywhere the surf would take us. Cabo Verde and other Atlantic islands were on our minds. Africa was a distinct possibility. But the charts told us to head for Ireland. There, we linked up with the locals and were introduced to some of the scariest waves on the planet. Check it out in Surfer’s Big Issue.