Hey All,

“Still upright and taking nourishment” is the standard dry-as-toast reply from my neighbor Old John, an 80-something retired auto shop teacher, whenever I ask how he’s doing. Same answer every time, and I’m never not thankful for both the wit and the predictability. Sameness goes up value as we age. Mostly what I want from that exchange with Old John is to not hear is “Stage 4” or “the Illuminati killed Epstein.”

Many of the things I’m thankful for in surfing these days is similarly dependable, or have brought me joy or comfort or knowledge for a long time. Here are a few.

In quick order I could rattle off two-dozen names, starting with Drew Kampion and ending with Chas Smith, of surf writers who have inspired, delighted, or otherwise amazed me over the past 50-something years. But Phil Jarratt is probably nearest and dearest to my writerly soul. The profiles he did in the late ’70s and early ’80s were whip-smart but easy to read, funny and political and well-researched. Phil loved surfing (still does) and expressed that love in part by laughing at it, and that attitude has for decades now been my own journalistic North Star. People of good conscience may disagree as to Jarratt’s finest work. His Larry Bertlemann piece is certainly in contention. But for my money, 1978’s “Shaun at the Crossroads” is not just Phil’s best, but the runaway best surf article of the 1970s. Was Jarratt the Shaun Tomson of surf writers? Don’t be silly. Shaun was the Phil Jarratt of pro surfers.

Encyclopedia of Surfing

Specifically this Mark Healey white rhino from last year, but any Second Reef chipshot-to-A-bomb ride, from Greg Noll to Seth Moniz, gets me going.

I have issues here, as most of you do, and if Erik Logan has a SUP-sized sinus flush into his candied yams this Thursday I will not feel bad for wishing it so. But my most fervent atheist prayers—apart from continued good health of my family, and the survival of western democracy—are for huge west-northwest Second Reef Pipe and light trades for the Pipe Masters world title showdown next month. Who’s gonna snatch that crown? My heart says Italo, my head says Gabe, my inner Saint Jude says Kolohe.

Nothing to See Here is a deeply strange and strangely funny book about a hard-luck woman in her late 20s hired to look after two kids who, when agitated, burst into flames. Which brings us to Caroline Marks. She hasn’t (yet) physically combusted, but the 17-year-old Melbourne Beach phenom goes into the last event of the 2019 WCT season with an outside shot at a world title. I am not thankful, in the sense of gratitude, for teen phenoms. But I am fascinated, riveted even, by surfers like Marks—and Moore, Florence, Slater, Lynch, Hakman, and Godfrey before her—whose talent develops forward with such speed that the learning curve appears to angle down rather than up. Of course, prodigious childhood talent can be dangerous (see David Eggers and Nicky Wood) as well as spectacular, and thus my appreciation for Caroline Marks comes with a wish that she can ride the fire without being consumed by it.

Encyclopedia of Surfing

Formally known as Letters to the Editor. Sift a metric ton of shit and pluck out those diamonds. True today, and true in 1974. Does anybody out there remember Les Cammer of Santa Barbara? Surfing ran a lot of Cammer’s dark, lacerating, black-comedy letters in the early- and mid-’70s. “I’ve decided to give up surfing because it’s making me too horny,” he wrote in 1974. “I’ve decided to give up surfing and become a junkie. I’ve decided to give up surfing and become the world’s sweetest fairy. I’ve decided to give up surfing and begin a trip around the world on which I will smash every TV in existence. I’m going to give up surfing and become a bead of sweat under Kim Novak’s left breast on a warm July morning.” Cammer’s stuff could be exported word-for-word into a BeachGrit comments thread.

Encyclopedia of Surfing

“Stoke” is the iron skillet, the Levi’s 501s, the Charlie Watts of surf terms. It is old but timeless. Never out of style. Immune to irony. “Stoke” is our password: with a few exceptions, it remains a surfers-only word. And the feeling it represents is not something I will sully by trying to describe here in an email, except to note that, for now at least, before the wavepools rise and devour us all, “stoke” is our justification, our grail, our foundation. Former Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter does not surf, but he went from zero-to-exciting as fast as anybody in rock and his contribution to this EOS video stokes me to my salt-encrusted core.

Thanks for reading, everybody, and see you next week.