This guest post is written by AlexG. Julian and Alex are working together. After almost one year in the same office in Cologne, Alex moved back to California. In the Cologne office the two spent some time talking about surfing and now Alex shares some thoughts on surfing in California. As Alex is also author of some great books, it’s always a lot of fun to read his bits. Enjoy!
California is the birthplace of modern surfing. Hawaii and Polynesians were dropping into waves with logs, yeah, but this is where it all developed into what it is today. Throughout history much has changed in boards, from shaping to technology, and in surfing technique. But one thing that never changed, and much less here in Cali, is the spirit and the essence of surfing.
You can breathe it in the air. You feel it in the water. You see it on the smiles of hundreds of people out there in the sea when you paddle out. California was always a dream place to me, and I know it is also dreamlike to many of us.
Surfing in California – Hooked by the longboard
I started surfing when I was 13, that was 26 years ago. I started out with a shortboard, and was having a hard time to learn on something so little. So I tried my big brother’s longboard one day – and boom! – the magic happened. With the huge 9’0 board I started dropping every wave I wanted, the thing floated! different from my sinking little shortboard. So I knew it was meant to be. The magic number, 13, and a new longboard. I was hooked.
From there I got into what it was to actually be a longboarder. While my friends were worried about snapping it out from the lip, I was getting both of my toes on the nose and looking F**n’ cool while doing it. I went back to the roots, and started watching every longboarding video I could find. The “thing” with longboarding is that a lot of the beauty of it is in the details. In the style of the surfer. And in the choices each surfer makes on exploring the wave – noseriding, cutting back often, speeding up and down, you name it.
Mickey Muñoz was one of my favourite surfers at the time, and still is – I love the man for his “hot-dogging” style – which means to be really busy, back and forth on the longboard, noseriding and cutting back and doing it again. I adopted the “hot-dogging” thing as much as I could. Taking it from all the videos I could find. I had this film in VHS – I think I was the only person who had that in Brazil at the time, where I lived. I got it in a trip to Miami, where I didn’t find much waves, but found lots of precious VHS tapes.
I forgot to mention that by the way – I am born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – my name is Alex – and now I live in Los Angeles California. This place is special to me not only because it is my home now, but because it is the roots of my passion for surfing.
Back when I was twenty, or twenty one, I made a trip to explore California with some friends for a couple of months. We rented a green bus, transformed into a motor home, and loaded our surfboards in there for a 3 month trip across the coast. It was insane, we could just follow the swell, get the rumours from the locals and hunt the best possible spots ever – it was magic.
Surfing in California – Finding the perfect board
Part of the magic to me was having a perfect board. I had been looking at shapers for a long time by then, and my best man on shaping a board was a guy named Bill Stewart. The thing with Stewart is that, different from most shapers, he has a very well defined set of designed boards for each style of surfer, wave, and combinations of both. I love many other shapers as well, naturally, like Robert August, and of course I always recognised the genius of Mr. “Hobie” – But Stewart to me was shaping my dream board, and I got a Stewart Hydrohull for this 3 month trip around Cali.
I recommend this to every surfer that asks me about Cali – “ Dude! Come over, buy a new board here, and spend some time around the coast – then sell me your board if you don’t wanna take it back.”
On naming names there, there was one “kid” that I had the chance to surf next to him when I was in California during this time – and to watch him in some championships in Huntington beach. His name is Joel Tudor – Joel is a master that actually changed longboarding a lot. He didn’t power through waves, so he was always classic, but he would pull things out that would leave me amazed every time.
After that trip I was back out into the world and away from California love. I went back to Brazil and continued putting my bag of tricks learned in Cali into practice. I lived in a place called Florianopolis at the time – an island with 44 beaches and lots of waves. More on waves in Florianopolis just click here.
But then…. I had to stop surfing for a few years while hunting for “the waves of awesome work” – and to be very honest, I didn’t know how bad I was missing the water until I finally made it back into the sea.
Returning to California now, and getting out into the water again, showed me one thing: I will never stop surfing again – never – no matter what. So you shouldn’t stop either. Give up everything my friend, but don’t give up surfing.
Arriving in L.A. the first thing I did, of course, was to get a new board – and if you know me by now you have guessed the shaper already – Bill Stewart, the man himself. This time I went out to San Clemente and visited the Stewart shop – I had the chance to get into his shaping room and see what he was working on – and then pick my next board from his broad line of models. This time I went for a very big noserider – a Tipster model 9’8 – HUGE! I never had such a big board in my life, my longest was a 9’4 up to this point – so I am having a lot of fun learning to explore this “log.” I set it into the wave and it is just inviting and supporting me to really ride the nose with a lot of stance. I took one shot with the board in front of the classic Stewart wave, painted by him on the wall of his shop.
So now I am back in the water and learning the secrets of the California breaks again. Waves are different in each part of the world. The currents, the winds, the sand, the rocks, everything will add into creating a very unique experience for each spot (even the locals – and how friendly they are, or not). My idea is to share more of this here in the future with you guys. With hopefully some more photos of good days of surf and waves.
But one thing I can tell you already… in fact, two things…
Check Surfline to see what’s happening out there before you go – this is the link to Venice beach, the closest spot to my house.
Don’t wait – if surfing has presented itself to you with all its magic, take it! and don’t let go. 😉
Aloha! because one of my next destinations will be Hawaii.