Archive for June, 2010

The Earth Says Hello

Whenever I am faced with the decision about whether I should make it a long night out or a dawn patrol I have always chosen the latter.  To me there is little better than getting in the water and surfing just as the sun is breaking the horizon.  Crowds are usually at a minimum, and the wind almost always stays light so that conditions are clean and glassy.

This morning was no different. After almost two weeks without waves every surfer I know was waiting for the small swell that came our way today. This was evidenced by the number of people who were in the water with me at 6:00 am. The local crowd was in effect, with Travis “Big Hack,” “Step-Down” James and “Long Board” Dean all sitting at one of my favorite spots exchanging waves.  I was happy to join them.

The waves were small and summery.  It was like a few drops of water on the tongue while wandering the desert; just enough to keep you going but not enough to quench the thirst.

There were a few other faces that I did not recognize.  While waiting for a set I overheard their conversation, and I realized that localism is not dead, especially for the dawn patrol crowd.  One of the guys was barking about “some Guido who has been on the beach all summer, yelling and barking out orders to his friends and family.”  The guy went on with much vigor about how he “hopes to see him in the water one day.”

At Least For the DP

I would say that this alarmed me somewhat, but this was dawn patrol.  This was local hour, and I was somewhat glad that there was an inclination to regulate in the pack.  In fairness to everyone else, I will go squeeze in among the herbs and kooks for an afternoon session when the tide drops after 2:00 pm, and I fully expect a free for all of tourists and Bennies. 

That will be fine.  Locals can play nice in the sandbox then, just as long as we have the dawn patrol intact.

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Talent is a funny thing.  Everyone has their strengths and their unique attributes.  Some people take time and energy to develop their particular set of skills, while others seem to let their talents waste away.  Another interesting aspect of talent is that it often goes to a person’s head. 

This is not the case with surf artist Jay Alders.  One look at his artwork and it is undeniable that he exudes talent and that he has developed it.  He also has an absolute knack for capturing the feel of surfing and the lifestyle that surfers cherish.  Yet none of this has gone to his head.  I recently had the chance to sit and talk with him over a cup of coffee and what follows are portions of a very interesting conversation:

Sea Sand Surf:  The first time I saw your paintings I was here in this very Starbucks (in Neptune, New Jersey).  It must have been a couple of years ago. 

Jay Alders: Yeah, they have shown my work twice now.

SSS:  I was immediately struck by your ability to capture light.  You have a way of bringing the visually translucent nature of the surfing experience to the canvas.  How do you do that?

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JA:  I have always been interested in the way that things work.  When I am surfing or looking at the ocean I am curious about the way that light interacts with the wave.  I am intrigued by the curves that appear naturally in the ocean, along the dunes of the beach and in the human form as well.

SSS: How do you cultivate that awareness and what inspires you?

JA: I just try to pay attention to the details in life. Whether listening to music, checking the waves or watching a seagull fly across the beach I try to understand the movement  and seek inspiration in everything. 

SSS: So were you always an artist who had a primary focus on surfing?

JA: Not necessarily. My whole life, I’ve been into skateboarding.  It was not until I got my driver’s license that I started surfing regularly at Manasquan Inlet and started obsessing over waves and surfing.

SSS: So you were officially bitten by the bug too.

JA: Yes, officially bitten… (laughs)

SSS: When did that creative change take place for you?  As an artist you are renowned for capturing the surf vibe.

JA: I had been working on a painting titled Back to Me during a point in my life which was very transformational, hence the title Back to Me which holds several meanings. Upon moving to the beach, I was about ready to complete the piece. I painted a window in the background looking out onto the beach and it dawned on me to try to incorporate my love of the ocean in some future pieces.  That was 5-6 years ago now.

Back to Me (Oil on Canvas)

SSS: So that window literally opened a new world for you.

JA: (laughs) I suppose you could say that. Life imitating art…

SSS: Exactly. And speaking of life, how do you fit surfing into your routines as an artist.

JA: Like most New Jersey Surfers I am forced to suffer through long flat spells, so when the waves come I do everything I can to be on it. 

SSS: Living in Belmar helps I am sure.

JA: Absolutely.  I am able to keep my eye on conditions.  When the swell, winds and tides combine, I make it priority to grab my board and run for the local break.

SSS: One of my favorite paintings of yours is Solitube. I love the play on words too.  This is a quality of life that is difficult to find in New Jersey and surfing provides that peace for a lot of us.  How has the fast pace of New Jersey influenced you?

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JA: Jersey is tough place.  I have had the chance to travel quite a bit and there are few places as intense.  The one thing that living here has taught me is how to hustle.  To be successful and make a career as an artist you need to have business sense, and New Jersey teaches you that the hard way.

SSS: In keeping with the theme of intensity and difficulty, how would you represent the BP spill as an artist?  Your work brings such a positive light into the world, but how would you handle that subject if you had to?

A laughing gull in distress tries to climb on an oil boom

JA: Man, that is a tough one. As an artist it is a struggle to make a political comment that is not overly heavy handed. My initial reaction is that I would take an emotional approach, maybe an oil slick wave or an injured bird. Artistically, I do my best to bring an optimistic approach to the work, but I do think it is important to document the times that we live in.

SSS: Well, your work is absolutely awesome, and I know that you are on the move. I can’t thank you enough for taking some time to have a chat.  What is on the immediate horizon?

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JA: I am leaving for a three tour stop of Brazil in conjunction with Almasurf this week. I’ll be on tour with John Butler Trio and Rob Machado which is pretty rad. It is a music and art festival and I am stoked to be invited back this year.  On July 14th I have an exhibition planned at Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park. My friend Donavan Frankenreiter is playing a concert across the street and he’ll be making a guest apperance at my show as he did last year .

SSS: Excellent news. I am sure the surf community will be in effect that night.  I know buzz is starting to spread already. Hopefully Donavan will bring a swell with him on his tour bus.  This flat spell is killing me.

JA: He brought some big swell last summer.  We had a sweet run of waves that week when he was in town.  Donavan is a great guy, and I think he has it written into his tour rider that there needs to be waves wherever he goes (laughs).

SSS: Let’s hope so, because if it works out for him it works out for all of us hardened Jersey Surfers.  Is there anything else of interest?

JA: I will be at The Pit in the Outer Banks of North Carolina on July 9th and 10th for a solo art exhibit and charity skate to raise money for Surf Aid International.  Our musician friends The Movement, Quincy Mumford & Gabe Gomez will be performing, and our bro’s from Original Skateboards will be doing longboard skating demos and releasing the new line of Jay Alders Longboard Skateboards.

SSS: So there is no shortage of upcoming events.  Of course we can follow along at http://www.jayalders.com/.  With any luck, we can get you to check in again along the way. We are wishing you the best.  Just don’t let the rest of the world know that Jersey gets waves too.

JA: (laughs) No doubt.  It is best to keep it our little secret.

The Atlantic Ocean did not care that today was International Surfing Day.  Southwest winds and high pressure meant nothing for the prospect of waves.  It is flat spells like this that can give rise to melancholy and despair.  Alas, I am still grateful to be a surfer though, and I take solace in the fact that good waves will come soon, and they will feel all the sweeter for the prolonged down time.

I did however take stock of my quiver today and it is a Regular Joe’s quiver at best. 

Flat Spells Are For the Dogs

First (L to R) we have the 9 foot soft top.  This was a gift from the owners of a surf school where I instructed a few summers ago.  All of you big time bankers and CEOs can keep your 6 figure bonuses, this was a true blessing.  I am counting on it seeing some action this summer too, as I prepare to teach my father how to surf. Happy Father’s Day Pops!

WCT, Here I Come

Now, I know that the words “Fun Shape” will often draw an evil eye from those who think they are in the know.  But this Kia Nalu is 7’ 3,’  it paddles like butter and is Hawaiian shaped.  I can just hear the sneers and jeers as I paddle out into a crowded lineup, but hell this board is fun!

The Fun Starts Here

 Next, we have my 6’ 4” Local Motion.  The board is a rocket.  Of course, at the time of purchase I completely overestimated the arch of my progression.  I guess that I was momentarily enthralled with the idea of pulling a powerful bottom turn, smashing the lip, pumping twice through a meaty barrel before busting a massive cutback and boosting an air as an exclamation point.  I do none of this.  I have however had some great rides on the thing and it serves an occasional purpose.

 

The Thorn In My Side

Lastly, there is my Steady Freddy.  This is the 6’ 7s Superfish.  This board is awesome fun.  The step down rails allow me to turn quite well.  The swallow tail keeps it light and loose, and I ride this board 90% of the time now. 

 

Great For the Daily Commute

I did not mention Big Red, but I have blogged about my long standing love affair with this beast previously. Tim, from Identity Surf is currently giving it some TLC, and I know that when the time is right we will get some fun ones.  I will even work on that cross-step that I abandoned all of those years ago.

 

My International Surf Day quiver evaluation does leave me wanting more.  Isn’t that they way a quiver works though?  Aren’t we always in search of that next great board?  I know that I am.  And not having surf to ride only makes it worse!   

If you have any suggestions about what board would help round this motley crew out, I am open to advice…

Thanks for checking in.

  The Sacred Craft Surfboard Expo will be taking place in San Diego, California August 14-15th.  Simon Anderson will be honored in an effort to mark the 30 year anniversary of the thruster. 

Anderson is most noted for introducing innovative surfboard designs, particularly the thruster which have completely changed the way that waves are ridden (for many of us anyway).  Every surfer surfing today is effected by his approach, which is really powerful.  What I find most interested about Anderson though, is his belief that surfing and design is about relationships. 

He was quoted once in an interview as saying that, “if you don’t have a relationship with a shaper where you can still get what you want, then that’s more of an issue of not fostering relationships, than me being responsible for something. I’ve only ever done whatever I’ve done in surfing because I want to go surfing – not because I want to dictate where surfing goes, or I want to lead surfing off into a certain area. I’ve just done it because I want to change what I’m doing and I want to move forward on what I’m doing.”

Anderson seems to be saying that it is ultimately important for us to find our own personal mantra for surfing and seek a board that enables that philosophy to be lived.  If it fun you seek, than it is imperative that you find a board that allows for that.  If you seek performance and the ability to do tricks and maneuvers in a progressive fashion than go for it.

In the end it is important that you have the ability to convey your desire to your shaper.  It is through this discussion that you can find a board that is right for you and begin to explore your relationship with surfing.  In coming days I will be speaking Gene, a local Jersey shaper and owner of Essence Surf.  If you are interested in shaping you can also visit Mast Surfboards and get another grass-roots perspective from the west coast.   

All of the best.  Praying for waves…

It has now been a full week since we have had a wave even remotely worth getting wet over.  This is unfortunate and enough to drive a surfer a little crazy.  Fortunately, the Belmar Seafood Festival, one of the great harbingers of summer along the Jersey Shore, offered a fine distraction.  The tents were open all weekend and the people came to town with their appetites in tow.   

Sunday Morning Just Before the Crowds

 There was plenty of good music; jazz, blues and rock & roll played in the gazebo on the lake both days.  

  

   

Surfrider was there on Friday night and Saturday, but their tent was nowhere to be found on Sunday.  They were signing folks up and promoting environmental awareness as only they can. I was bummed to see them missing on day three.  The good news is that 90.5 The Night, Brookdale Public Radio was in effect.  It is a great station on the radio or for checking out on the web.   

   

The Belmar Arts Council was also there.  They offer a great link between creativity and the surfing lifestyle.  Hutch and his Wife Pat were raffling off a beach cruiser and doing so in grand fashion.    

Alternative Transportation Anyone?

Of course the highlight of the whole thing is the food, and there was plenty of good stuff to be had.  There must have been close to 60 vendors in total and all of them offered their own specialities.    

Sam, of Witch Doctor Cuisine Making Great Kabob

It was also awesome to see so many local vendors doing their thing.  One of the great stops on any given day in our area is 10th Ave. Burrito and this weekend was no exception.   

1oth Ave. Rules After a Day in the Waves

As you might expect, there are always one or two items that are questionable and dependent on personal preference when it comes to food.  So given the variety I was not surprised to find something that even I would not venture to eat.  

  

Is This anatomically Correct?

None the less, a great time was had by all.  Now, we just need some waves…

Call me crazy, but it seems that amid all of the fist pounding and brow beating associated with the spill in the gulf, that something is missing.  As we invent mechanisms to gather every drop of the precious crude and figure out ways to mitigate the financial damage to mega-corporations we wait for someone to provide a plan.  Politicians are making threats and babbling around in circles, acting as if they are not at the mercy of powerful oil lobbyists.  Scientists are focused on stopping the leak and mitigating damage to the environment, as well they should be right now.

But where is the long-term vision?  Recently, over dinner with some friends and family this conversation arose and consensus was pretty clear that if this disaster does not provide the impetus for our country to seriously seek an alternative fuel source to power our cars and lives, what will?

So that is the problem isn’t it?  With all of this happening, the destruction, the loss of human and wildlife, and the heavy burden of emotional despair both near and far, it is still, in essence, behavior as usual.  This is a concern.  If not now, when?  If not this, what?

There is one silver lining in this massive gray cloud that is the spill in the gulf, and that is the amount of human ingenuity that has been thrown at the problem.  Government, business, and local person alike have thrown their backs and wallets into finding a solution.   I know that necessity is the mother of invention, and so I know we will invent a way to stop this leak eventually.

So join me now for a moment and picture this:  as the spill is stopped, and the clean-up begins our attention is bound to shift. Rather than the resources currently allocated to fixing this problem dispersing back to their ordinary lives, what if an even larger project began.  What if all of the intellectual property, the mechanical knowhow, the men and women, the bankers and lawyers, the politicians, scientists and business people immediately went to work on creating a viable alternative to fulfill our needs?  What would happen if BP shifted the context of its business model away from drilling and chose to become the leader in this pioneering endeavor?

I would think that if there were such a willingness expressed under the proper leadership this tipping point might lead us to a brighter tomorrow.             

Let’s face it, summer will be gone as soon as it gets here.  So, as you plan for things to do be sure to pencil in the Donavan Frankenreiter show at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park  on July 14th.  There are sure to be plenty of soulful jams and tons of peaceful vibes floating around that night.

Franenreiter plays laid back music that will be perfect after a day in the waves.  The only thing we can hope is that he brings a swell along with him.  I am sure Donavan, a great surfer by all accounts, will have a quiver on the tour bus as he looks to get the dust of the road cleaned off in a few crispy barrels.  His tour is extensive, so be sure to catch him when he comes to your area if you can’t make it that night.

Another band worth getting tickets for is Gaslight Anthem.  These New Brunswick natives are definitely going to sell the Stone Pony out on August 5th, and they have a good chance of putting on the concert of the summer.  Their latest album American Slang is classic lyrical punk. My buddy Mike and I will be there for this one.  If you see me, send me up for a crowd surf!

Keep checking in for concert news, wave updates and all that is happening (and not so happening).  Thanks.