From the 805 to the 858

The One-Oh-One
The Four-Oh-Five
The Seventy-Three
The Five.

The One.

The Five
The Seventy-Three
The Four-Oh-Five
The Five
The Fourteen
The Five
The One-Twenty-Six
The One-Oh-One
The One-Ninety-Two.

Fuckin' SoCali.

Merry Christmas and Stuff.



Time seems to pass. The world happens, unrolling into moments, and you stop to glance at a spider pressed to its web. There is a quickness of light and a sense of things outlined precisely and streaks of running luster on the bay. You know more surely who you are on a strong bright day after a storm when the smallest falling leaf is stabbed with self-awareness. The wind makes a sound in the pines and the world comes into being, irreversibly, and the spider rides the wind-swayed web.

Opening paragraph, The Body Artist.

How does he do that?


Little Bike Blue

I took my IF out for a long overdue jaunt around the neighborhood. She's the first blue bike, Little Bike Blue. I actually have three blue bikes, but two makes for a far better rhyme. I certainly didn't set out to be so monochromatic. Next time, I'll have the orange one, thanks.

I have sinned. I have badly neglected Little Bike Blue and she felt free to show her displeasure. Born in Massachusetts, a land of rooty, twisty single track, the first blue bike likes to go fast and turn quickly. She reads my mind. Which is not always a good thing. A high bottom bracket, short chainstays, and short wheel base make tight single track a joy. Except when I forget what to do and get left behind. Uh, dude, where's my bike?

We went out to one of the local hills and went up. Up went great. Little Bike Blue likes to climb things. Down went less great. We had a few directional disagreements, the blue bike and I. When it's cold and winterlike, I'm not so quick. Being of the east coast persuasion, Little Bike Blue has no problem with cold. She was way ahead of me. I feel certain it was all the weather's fault. No, really.

Perhaps I should stick to my Schwinn, who rarely gets ahead of anything. The Schwinn is the third blue bike, for those of you keeping score at home. The third blue bike is a 1955 Schwinn Tornado, a name that sounds far more exciting the pedestrian pace we generally achieve. I even put on a nice spineasy gear, since the original gearing was bigger than my legs. Maybe women were just burlier in the 1950s. Or maybe they wanted to ride their cruisers on the freeway.

Having digressed this far from the original point, which may or may not have existed, I should not neglect the second blue bike. I really don't have much to say about the second blue bike. She came second. And she's from Santa Cruz, a place I would very much like to be from. (I'd like it ever more if there weren't a preposition at the end of that sentence. Alas.)

But I am trying to get back down the hill, and can't be bothered with prepositions just now. The descending part wasn't smooth, and it definitely wasn't pretty. Like, how long have I been riding this bike? (A really long time, in bike years.) I really race on this thing? (Yes, I'm afraid so. There are even pictures to prove it.) Let's just say, I've got just a little ways to go before I'm ready to see any starting lines, and maybe I better hide out in the hills for a while where no one can see my utter lack of grace and finesse. Certainly, I should stop neglecting the first blue bike.

But at least I made it back home at the same time as my bike.

Baby steps.


My Own Secret Sandbar

Into the Sunset: An unidentified surfer grabs air at a rarely breaking spot in Santa Barbara.

It's a funny quirk of surfing culture, that one is never supposed to blow the secret spot or publish news of the big swell. All the same, everyone knew about the big swell that showed up last week. In the parking lot, a guy said he owned a surf shop on the East Coast. He'd flown across the country. I hope he got a wave. I heard French, Aussie, and Spanish accents. Everyone turned out for the big party in Cali.

In the morning, we headed down to Rin- erm, a point south of Santa Barbara. There, the size showed to advantage. The water runs deep over an undersea canyon, then kicks up big when it hits the silty shallows of the rivermouth. It was nothing like the NorCali spots, the Grand Canyonlike troughs at Mavericks, for example. (Head over to surfline for some video of that craziness.) But big enough to inspire awe. And break a few boards.

After a serious gawking session, I headed down to the harbor to that "rarely breaking spot." Even surfline didn't give it away, posting video of "an epic California Sandbar." It's a little silly. There isn't a wave in the world that looks like this one. And it isn't especially hard to find. Maybe that was why the lineup stretched the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. And why only the best of the best got a ride.

When the Army Corps of Engineers decided to create Santa Barbara Harbor, they got out their digging machine and started shovelling. The result was the harbor.

And a sandbar.

To the sandbar, they added a breakwater, with a stout rock pile to keep the currents from undoing their efforts. Certainly, they didn't set out to make a surf spot.

On a big swell, the sandbar kicks up a fast, steep wave that barrels like nobody's business. The same shallow sandy bottom that forms the peak demands the perfect take-off, as blowing the timing means intimate contact with the sandy bottom. One board lay forlornly on the beach, its nose broken clean off. Surely, it wasn't the only casualty.

But I am forgetting the breakwater, which gives this spot its distinctive sillouette. After all, nature creates its share of sandbars. Here, the concrete wall sends each successive swell careening back on itself, pushing the peak still higher and sending sky-high the signature arc of spray. Drop in too slow, and the backwash pushes back. Boards and ragdoll figures fly through the white water.

I stood on the breakwater, the spray towering above me. To get to the front of the lineup, guys walk, lemmings in a line, along the rocks and jump. A cranky old man watched nearby, muttering dire predictions. Really, this was the easiest part of the whole business.

After watching the mayhem for a time, I headed down to the beach. The swell started to drop off, though a few overhead set waves still rolled through. One of the mass of photographers, lugging a monster long lens, headed for home as I walked down the beach. "It's over," he said. I thought maybe he was right, but the afternoon sun warmed my skin and I hated to leave. When the film ran out, I didn't reload, switching to the digital happy-snapper, lazily firing off a shot here and there.

And then, just about the time I started to think about the bike ride I hadn't done and that maybe I'd had my fill, the real party started.

The signs showed subtlely at first. Suddenly, guys were making the drop. Every time. The overhead set waves, which had often gone unclaimed earlier, now found plenty of takers. Interesting, I thought. On the smaller waves, the moves started look a little more polished, a little more powerful. A little more pro. A Quicksilver logo caught my eye, then an Oakley. Still more interesting. A kid ran down the beach, autograph pad in hand. A tan, strong-looking guy smiled and signed.

And then, I saw the best surfing I've ever seen live. It was as if Tommeke and Ale showed up and pulled out all the stops to win the city limit sprint. Or, maybe better, as if Brian Lopes railed on your local descent, getting air and taking lines you'd never imagined existed.

Here's Kelly Slater (right), bazillion times world champion. He's like good and stuff.

The beer flowed freely on the beach and the local bros cheered the big moves. No prize money, no judges. Just a little play session in the sand box.

I shot until the light faded, walking back up the beach in the setting sun.


Clicky for more pics.


Sandspit at Sunset

Santa Barbara Harbor.