Lightsabers and Surfboards

Stefan A. Slater's blog about whatever's on Stefan A. Slater's mind (e.g., Ewoks, Pipeline and speaking in the third person).

Category: Ocean

Zombies and Paddleboards

Zombies and Paddleboards

I could make it.

That’s generally my first thought when I contemplate whether I could paddle from LA to Catalina.

You’re probably thinking to yourself, Why are you even thinking about that in the first place? Don’t you have anything better to do?Well, to answer your first question, I’ve been watching back-to-back episodes of “Doomsday Preppers” and I’ve decided that Catalina Island is the perfect place to escape—or “bug out,” my new favorite idiom— from the inevitable zombie apocalypse that will certainly strike LA within the next few years. I’ll skip trying to get a boat (since the marinas will probably be full of zombies… you’re welcome), so commandeering a paddleboard is the only logical course of action.

Per your second question, I ask you this: Is there anything more important than preparing for the zombie apocalypse? Yeah, I think not.

Anyway, moving on, I recently found out that’s there a contest that’s held every year for long-distance paddlers who race from Catalina Island to Manhattan Beach—it’s called the Catalina Classic. They paddle an incredible 32 miles (that’s roughly the distance from Sherman Oaks to Redondo Beach) on massive boards that are generally 12-to-19 feet in length, and they’re able to cover that vast expanse of open water in less than 4 hours.

So, when the undead finally rise and overrun the City of Angels, at least I know there’ll be few others that can help me restart civilization on Catalina—hopefully, they can just drag me behind them while we all paddle over, since I don’t think I’d be able to keep up at that blistering 7-knot pace.

Here’s a short article on the results of last year’s contest, and a short video showing the start of the race (note howearly they start the race).

I haven’t been able to find any details on the 2012 Catalina Classics, so if any of you have any info on when it’ll be held, please let me know. And with that, I’m off to go prepare my “bug out” bag. See you in the water!


Corn Beef and Surf

Well, bop me with a shillelagh and pour me a pint of green beer; St. Patrick’s Day is almost here. Since my girlfriend is Irish (well… her family’s Irish; she’s from Simi Valley), St. Patrick’s Day has become a significant holiday in the Slater household. In fact, for this year’s celebrations I was told we were having a “genuine” Irish dinner: Corn beef and cabbage with a side of soda bread. I thought that because the meal was supposed to be “genuinely” Irish there would be at least one potato, but alas, I was mistaken. Now I guess I’ll just have to be content with the boiled cabbage—oh, because there’s nothing quite as delicious (or nutritious) as cabbage. Yum.

Actually, in all honesty, I’m looking forward to this dinner (sans boiled cabbage, thank you very much). I’m not too familiar with Irish cuisine, so I’m excited to try something new. So, with that said, in honor of good ol’ St. Patrick and the dinner my girlfriend will be preparing this weekend (and I’ll be thoroughly enjoying), I thought I’d give you a bit of background on the surf history of Ireland.

Surfing was first introduced to the Emerald Isle in 1963, when an English customs officer rode his British-made board near a jetty in the Northern Ireland town of Castlerock. At around the same time, an Irishman named Kevin Cavey (who had taken up the sport of bellyboarding in his youth) had decided to give surfing a go. He ordered a surfboard-kit from England, and built his own board. In fact, in 1966 Cavey traveled to San Diego to represent Ireland in the World Surfing Championships. The Surf Club of Ireland was formed in 1966 in Bray, and in the summer of 1969, an Irish team attended the first European Surfing Championships. Currently, Ireland is home to several thousand surfers, dozens of surf shops and schools, and scores of epic breaks.

Ireland’s 1,700-mile coast is relatively wave rich; powerful North Atlantic storms often generate sizeable surfing conditions. Irish surf can sometimes peak at over 15 feet+, as evidenced by this recent big-wave surfing video from The weather though, is the only downside; it’s usually damp, cold, and generally blustery. It also doesn’t help that average water temperatures are usually pretty chilly too: In the summertime, the water’s in the low 60s F, and in the winter it’s usually in the high 30s F.

Cold water aside, Ireland has (arguably) some of the best waves in Europe, and it’s definitely worth a surf trip. I hope you all have a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day, and if you can, catch a few waves to celebrate! I’ll see you out in the water.

>My Cleveland surf article is finally here!

OK, I know I’ve been hinting at it for a while, but now I can finally say it:

My article for Huck Magazine about the Cleveland, Ohio surf scene is finally here! YAY!

Wow… it feels good to finally say that. Check it out whenever you all get a chance, and feel free to leave a comment. The mag’s based in the U.K., and it’s available in North America and Europe (it’s also translated into German and French… kinda cool, huh?) Anyway, thanks for  waiting so patiently! Enjoy!

>Sci-fi and surfing

As you can tell by my recent Catching Air post, I have a thing for Bladerunner. Part of it has to do with the fact that El Porto (the main focus of my article) honestly reminds me quite a bit of the dystopian LA that it’s in the film—the smokestacks and the industrial flare ups look like something straight out of the first scene (well, minus the flying cop car).

Since sci-fi and surfing have consumed much of time lately, I decided to look for some literature that joined the two; unfortunately, I haven’t had much luck. However, I did come across a book called Lucifer’s Hammer. In the story, a massive comet hits the Earth, and causes earthquakes and tsunamis to pretty much destroy civilization, as we know it. Yeah, a bit of bummer, I know (isn’t that the same plot for Armageddon? Damn you, Michael Bay! Bane of my fricken existence). Anyway, in the book, there’s one particularly large tsunami heading towards So Cal, and apparently, all of the surfers (literally, all of them… not sure what traffic was like on PCH that day) paddle out and try to ride the wave. I’m pretty sure it didn’t really pan out.

Anyway, here’s a link to the wiki page about the book. I’ll try to keep my eye out for some sci-fi lit that actually does focus on surfing too. See you out in the water!

>New blog, same idea

Our South Bay Magazine has hired me to blog for them about the “action sports” scene in LA. The blog’s titled, “Catching Air”–a bit on the trite side, so I apologize. Our South Bay Magazine has hired me to blog for them about the “action sports” scene in LA. The blog’s titled, “Catching Air”—a bit on the trite side, so I apologize. Anyway, my plan with the blog is to discuss the same sorts of observations I tend to make concerning the intricacies (or lack thereof) of the surf/skate/snow community. I’ll be posting fresh content on here once a week, and now and then, I’ll post something from the other blog here as well. Oh, and feel free to check out Catching Air as well:

Thanks, and I’ll be posting something else shortly.




Volcanoes and Barrels

John John Florence

John John Florence

Highlights for this week: I finished reading Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth (spoiler alert: Axel’s very whiney, Hans does all the work, and their journey gets cut short by a poorly timed volcanic eruption) and John John Florence won the Volcom Pipe Pro. Apparently, Jamie O’Brien was ahead for most of the contest, but at the last moment, John John came back hard with a perfect 10 and a 9.93. This was a bit of a surprise, chiefly because the young rookie had been somewhat out of commission due to a rough wipeout (which resulted in several stitches in his hand). Well, kudos to John John for winning the contest and earning the coveted $20,000 prize. To learn more:

Zombies + Surfing = LA in a nutshell

LA is unabashedly insane.

A statement like that might be deemed derogatory, but honestly, I see it as something positive. LA is complicated; it’s culture and history (yes, it has culture and history) blends the Old West, the roaring 20s and the glitz and glamour of Hollywood into a giant smorgasbord of eccentricity and excitement. Okay sure, the traffic can be a living nightmare (I’d say roughly equivalent to being forced to listen to Rebecca Black’s “Friday” while munching on a glass a bottle), but truthfully, it’s never a boring place.

The same holds true for the surf scene in LA too—it’s a vibrant, hectic and altogether chaotic scene, emblematic of all of the city’s wonderful (and terrifying) characteristics. I believe that fact wholeheartedly, and I’ve yet to encounter another surf scene like it.

Artist Damian Fulton draws his inspiration for his art from the unique nature of LA’s surf scene, and the result is something that’s truly a step above your standard “beach and pretty wave” surf painting.  His art is a lovely ode to fantasy, surfing and Los Angeles; it features sci-fi themes, gun-toting monsters, knockout pin-up girls, and, my personal favorite, the omnipresent smoke stacks of El Porto. Oh, and did I mention that he has a surf painting titled “Dawn Patrol” that portrays surfers as mindless, shambling zombies? It’s like he reached into my soul and pulled out my innermost wishes and dreams….

The art is wonderful, and embodies every twisted noir aspect of LA, while also retaining a deep appreciation for surf culture—it’s fantastically brilliant stuff. I’ve posted a few of his paintings below. Hope you enjoy them!

>The legality of surfing

It seems that surfers aren’t very welcome in Chicago.

On Tuesday, Chicago surfer Rex Flodstrom was arrested for surfing near his home at Oak Street State Beach—which, apparently, is off-limits for surfing.

Before 2009, surfing was banned in Chicago. The law was reportedly enacted after an unfortunate tragedy that involved three girls and an inflatable raft. As a result, the city government placed a ban on the use of recreational flotation devices—including surfboards.

However, as noted in my previous Great Lakes article, there’s plenty of surf to be had on the Great Lakes. The number of surfers in the area has grown substantially over the years; in fact, Chicago is one of the few cities in the Great Lakes area that has surf shops (one of the largest and most popular is the Third Coast Surf Shop).

But three years ago, a group that would later become the Surfrider Foundation Chicago Chapter persuaded the city government to lift the ban on surfing, albeit on only certain beaches.

At this moment, there are four breaks open to the public during wintertime, and two during the summer.

Oak Street State Beach is unfortunately not among those open for surfing.

However, while it may not seem all that ideal (the chief reason being that it’s snowing and bloody cold), the winter months are actually considered the best for surfing in the Great Lakes. Thus, it’s a bit inconvenient to limit the number of accessible surfing beaches during the wintertime; especially, when there are dozens of spots to choose from.

Flodstorm’s court date (Feb.16) is fast approaching, but lucky for him, the king himself is willing to back him up.

According to Kelly Slater’s twitter account, he stated that: “Surfing is not a crime,” the 11-time surfing world champion tweeted Wednesday. “Say what?! Maybe a few of us should attend court with him.”

I’ll make sure to keep you all up date on this issue:

>Flat Spell Frustrations

I’m suffering from a rather acute bout of the “flat spell frustrations.” I’ve checked the cam and report for the North Bay several times throughout the day; honestly, it’s as flat as a chalkboard and the forecast for the week isn’t looking good. Ah, but what can you do? It’s not like I can pull a Sean Connery move and invent a complicated weather machine (an obscure movie reference, kudos to anyone who gets it). With that said, it’s times like these that I turn to Surfer for solace.

This week, Surfer is running a very timely article on their site titled, “How to Survive a Flat spell.” It offers up a number of very helpful suggestions; my personal favorite has to be the “just get in.” It might seem like a rather redundant thing to suggest (What you miss the ocean? Well, just get in it for crying out loud—it’s not like its going anywhere.), but it’s something that many surfers—including myself—often overlook. I recently tried it out myself, and it’s surprising how even a quick dip can help ease the flat spell jitters. Check out the article, and hopefully you can find a few suggestions to help you survive this unfortunate flat spell.

There's surf in Nigeria?/Big Waves in Tahiti

Here’s another video from Surfer Mag: Pro surfers Ricky Basnett and John Micheletti lucked out on their surfari in Nigeria and scored a couple of epic barrels. These gnarly A-frames look like they could easily snap a board in half. Check out the vid below:

Got another quick video for you! Seriously, this one will make you poop your pampers. It’s from last August at Teahupo’o, during the epic Billabong Pro—Surfer is saying that the sets that day were the biggest ever ridden at the infamous “Tahitian skull-crusher.” Watch the video and see for yourself!*

The video was filmed with a Phantom Camera HD; hence, the crazy clarity and super slow motion (1000 frames per second). The jaw-dropping angles are courtesy of the ballsy camera man who sat in the channel a mere 100 feet from those massive Tahitian bombs. Crazy stuff, huh?