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Archive for August, 2012

 

Last night I got home from work, did some laundry, my usual internet prowling then threw on “Good Will Hunting”.  I recently scored it for 50 cents on VHS  and I don’t know if its childhood nostalgia or the fact that I still rock a 23 inch tube television, but there is something so much more inviting when watching a VHS over a DVD.  I have always been a fan of the film.  Say what you want about Affleck, Driver, Williams, and Damon but this film works and is powerful on so many different levels.

The character Will Hunting is a perfect example of human alienation in society.  Here is this extraordinary human being who as a result of a tough up bringing and a remarkable gift has become a societal recluse finding life easier to study on his own, clean the floors of MIT and on occasion secretly answer other people’s thesis projects in a few moments that took its master years to come up with.  When his talents are brought to the light it causes him a whole host of problems.


Would have taken a clip from the actual movie but this clip from “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” was just way more entertaining.

The movie got me to thinking everyone in the film had sort of settled into their own personal comfort zone.  I don’t really know if that is a good thing or not.  Lately I sort of feel like that is what I have done.  When I moved to Santa Barbara five years ago I had all these goals and visions of what might become of my life.  Now five years later I must say things have gotten rather mundane.  I surf the same spots, have worked the same job for three years now, am a permanent fixture at the same club.  I made this place my home.  That’s what you do when your home, develop a routine and stick with it.

It works.  I am 100% self sufficient.  I have learned how to make a “dollar our of fifteen cents” and exist in a city where the cost of living well exceeds the average income.  It exceeds my income by at least double.  I guess I am comfortable.  At work I am sure of myself and am working the job to the best of my ability.  Surfing wise I know all the breaks, when their best and for the most part how to ride them the best to my own personal ability.  My living space, ahh the Lisanti Palace.  Lets just say I made genie in a bottle type of situation.

Yet I find myself excruciatingly bored.  As of late that boredom has turned to frustration and even at times anger.  It has me asking “what is next for Chris Lisanti”?  Or is this it?  To quote Jack Nicholson from “As Good as it Gets”, “What if this really is as good as it gets”?  I suppose then the existence I have eked out is not that bad.  Complacently content?  I don’t know.  Have I hit a plateau?  I do live on the Mesa after all.

My entire life I had always been climbing this inevitable steep slope to an unknown peak.  Many of time I felt like Sisyphus.  I realize now that those times of intense hardship may have been the most invigorating.  When I blew out my knee and wondered if my surfing career was over, when everyone in the establishment said I was too commercial to make a dent on the sax, when I was brought to my knees by my ex-girl friend and lost a year of my life to drinking. Maybe  those were the times that were the most stimulating.  I don’t know…

Lets hope that I am just walking through a valley right now in between then next slope to climb.  Santa Barbara is a pretty darn nice valley to be in, my Rivendell.  At the moment I am going to make the most of what is around me and try and stay as relatively positive as a person of my demeanor can.  Heck I am sure there are scores of people who look at everything I have, and what I have accomplished and where I am right now who would happily take it.  I won’t sit here and cry.  On the contrary, this is me just thinking out loud.

Now for the reason I really began writing this.  In about five hours I will be boarding a plane to Portland, Oregon to meet up with some family for my first cousin Rich’s wedding.  I am not really one for weddings in general, besides the open bar and excuse to where a suit.  This is one I could haves easily declined like so many of the other’s in the past.  For whatever reason when I got the invitation a few months back something told me I needed to be there.   Truth be told I have not been anywhere outside of California and Southern California mind you since I went to Australia five years ago.  There was a time when if I was in the same place for more then a few weeks I got antsy.

This is rather out of character for me, but I am rather excited to get out of Santa Barbara for a few days and even more enthralled to get to spend some quality time with my family some of whom I have not seen in almost two years.  Remember I am Italian so to be a stranger for so long is considered disrespectful and borderline ex-communicable.  Also I am not bringing a board and have not surfed since last Tuesday.  I won’t be back till next Tuesday meaning this will be one of the first times not being injured that I went 14 days with out a surf session. I am bringing my computer so stay tuned for some travel blogs via Oregon with pictures and hopefully adventures.  Talk you from Portland folks.

 

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There was a time when Jazz became watered down and very generic in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  This music was aptly labeled Smooth Jazz and sold to the masses.  The music found its way into elevators, doctors offices, The Weather Channel and in the homes of every white middle aged middle class American.  Kenny G was the most notable and the man everyone thinks of when the topic of smooth jazz comes up.

In the midst of this watered down garbage there were still plenty of solid cats who straight up shredded on their instruments within this format.  Art Porter was one of these men. The cat burned on both the alto and soprano saxophones.  Unfortunately due to an untimely death courtesy of a boating accent he was taken from us way before his peak as a player.  I only discovered his music in 1998 when the album “For Art’s Sake” was released, a posthumous compilation of some of his unreleased tracks and live performances.

My mind was blown by his ability on the Saxophone and my heart saddened that I would never get the opportunity to see him play live.  Like me Porter also spent time at Berklee College of Music in Boston.   Most jazz guys are always the first to discredit smooth jazz saying that it is a travesty to the art form.  Then I will always reference people such as Porter or Grover Washington Jr, David Sandborn, etc. who managed to still play to the best of their ability in the format.

Whenever I have a live performance or am going into the studio to blow over something more contemporary, but leaves me room to get on the wild side I always listen to a bit of Porter for inspiration.  The song I really wanted to share with you guys was a tune called “Lay Your Hands On Me” an 11 minute live version from the North Sea Jazz Festival in 1996.  I would say his playing on that tune in that performance is nothing short of all time.  I was unable to find an embed-able version.  I settled for this version of “Straight to the Point from the same concert and also a very cool Art Porter song.

In this performance he utilizes sheets of sound a jazz technique originally used by pianists and guitarists where multiple layers of notes are played simultaneously to give a sense of a wall of sound and creating the illusion that more then one instrument is being played at one time.  The technique was later popularized on the sax by John Coltrane on his rendition of “My Favorite Things”.  It is a skill I managed to pick up in high school and pissed off many of the traditionalist jazz guy because of it.  Porter also plays two horns at once towards the end of the tune as well.  I hope you enjoyed it.

I though I would leave you with one more, my favorite Art Porter tune, “Inside Myself”.  It is a very commercial version but you can still here how bad ass a player he is.

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I know, I know its been a while.  All I can say is that I have been rather busy and a bit more tired then usual.  The Summer of Alf is still going strong although about to come to its culmination September 21st and with it the end of the summer quarter of the UCB.  July came and went with out a Power of Ten list because all I got was one half ass uninspiring list form Kooky.  Since then things have come up a notch.  I have decided I will still run two Power of Tens this quarter, the one I am writing right now and one other.

So if you have not submitted a list yet feel free to post one.  Remember it is worth two points.  This one is taken by none other then my boy Nick Kiefer who has been a UCB sleeping giant as of late.  Looks like he woke the fuck up and came out of the gates swinging.   Oh and feel free to submit another Power of Ten Kiefer for the quarter finale.

1. Weapon of ChoiceAt the moment I have been favoring my Samurai sword.  It slices, it dices, it cuts off heads and limbs like butter.  As a matter of fact a few weeks ago my neighbors had this out of control party that woke me up at around 3am to the sounds of broken glass and screaming “get the fuck out of here”.  Things seemed a bit out of hand so I grabbed my sword off the mantle, unsheathed it and went over to play referee. “I don’t care who is right or who is wrong but if shit does not resolve itself right now I am going to start taking arms and legs”.  Problem solved.  For my favorite ghetto weapon check out a blog a wrote a bit back:  Resourceful Weaponry.  Its one of my funnier blogs.

Heads are gonna roll…I love destroying bad artwork from a whore of an artist. Thanks for the partying gift bitch.  The pieces are in the mail.

2. The “N” WordI hate the “N” word. Girls always seem to say it right as I am trying to get my hand up their skirts, NO! I suppose that was not the “N” word you were eluding to.  I once accidentally dropped the N-bomb at one of my dinner parties while my black friend Chantelle was in attendance.  Needless to say the entire room got silent I went red and she replied “that’s your one”.  Whats the big fucking deal.  I don’t get mad when people call me a guido in jest and black people call each other that word all time in rap music. You know what I’m taking it back…

3. Long HairSo this is sort of a touchy subject for me. I once had long hair, down to my shoulders.  I started growing it out when I was 12 and kept it at around shoulder length till last summer, read “Commitment Cut” for more about that.  I loved my long hair.  I used to say it was the source of my strength as a person like Samson and Delia from the Old Testament.  Then like Samson I cut my hair after Adrienne and I broke up hoping it would make a positive change in my life.  For one thing it made existing in our close minded society a lot easier.  All of a sudden jobs were easier to get, people took me more seriously on the outside I almost looked like a decent human being.  I have found the quality of women I meet has went down since I cut my hair which I though would have had the opposite effect.  Go figure. There is something about the feeling of the wind in your hair and the way it feels on your neck when your hair is long that gives one a sense of freedom. I am actually at the moment trying to decide whether to grow the hair back or not.  What do you folks think?

4. Harry Potter: Well I actually do not know much about the books or the movies since I have not read of seen either.  It just was not my generation and as an adult just did not have much interest in them.  My friend and former couch guy Charlie Sean and I took to calling our ex-girl friends Voldemort to help ween us off of using their names all of the time.  Honestly that Harry Potter guy looks like a bit of a faggot to me.

5.  VegetariansAs a lover of food I just could not imagine voluntarily giving up anything.   As a cook it can be a pain in my ass at times.  These days between Vegans, gluten free, raw food diets and whatever other weird new ass shit people come up with it makes feeding everyone happily a head ache.  I know one thing is for sure any chick I ever end up with has to enjoy eating everything or it is not going to work out.  Cows are vegetarians and I eat them.

6. The Olympics:  I have to admit besides catching an event or two randomly at the bar I did not watch any of them.  The summer Olympics on the whole has always been a bit of a bore to me.  I do prefer the action of the winter games.  Also I do not have a television making watching the games more difficult and the US Open of Surfing was on at the same time.  I will take amazing surfing in shitty waves and hot half naked girls in bikinis on the beach in sunny California over stuck up cold rainy England any day.

7. Fat People The blog with the all time most hits that I have written here on SurfingRuinedMyLife.net is “Those Carrying a Little Weight People” a blog I wrote about fat people.  It is also the one I get the most hate mail from.  One happy reader and I quote “Funny you said you don’t understand how people get fat but you also said “On the contrary I eat a massive amount of food, probably enough for two people. I just dont gain weight.” You’re an idiot. Clearly you have the eating habits of a “disgusting beached whale of a human,” but you have genetics on your side to keep you thin. You pretty much disgust me more than seeing someone morbidly obese.”   I said it once and I will say it again if your fat and you do not want to be eat less and exercise more its that easy.  Just like when I bitch about being a drunk.  There is an easy solution there drink less.  Let the hate mail continue.

8. Fishermen fishing in the LineupIt took me years to realize this and many conversations with the fishing enthusiast to find out that where the best waves are is usually where the best fishing is.  I guess they are attracted to certain currents along sand bars and what not.  Also piers are built for fishing in lots of places and those piers end up creating a good wave causing friction between the fishermen and surfers.  Out here one of the spots I frequent is always loaded with surf casters but they are really respectful and always pull their lines down when they see a surfer approaching unlike back east where they try to hook you.  I once got hooked by a bunch of redneck assholes in Hatteras years and years ago. But that is a story for another time.

9. SpeedosI am personally not a fan of speedos outside of their functional use which is for swimming with the least amount of drag.  I know the Euro guys love that shit and the Aussies where them under their wetsuits.  I personally do not like wearing them because my gargantuan penis does not fit inside such constraint an area.

10. Foreign GirlsThis is a group of women which is completely hit or miss for me.  On one hand they find me super attractive as an American surfer boy from California.  Then open my mouth and they are lost by my Lisant-bonics and strange accent.  There was this foreign girl all over me at Sharkeez the other night but just like all the other women that have been attracted to me this year she was morbidly obese, which brings us back to number 7.  To be honest, foreign, domestic, black, white, Asian, big, small its all warm and wet inside now isn’t it.

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I’m an addict and I’m strung out.  Its been one bad fix after another for me and at this point I am at my wits end.  I have paid dearly for this bad habit for the better share of my life. The worst part is 90% of the time all my efforts go to scoring deplorable dope a best. There was a time when I thought I had a chance at beating this illicit action and even had it well at bey and under my control.  Now I realize I am beyond hope and will suffer at my own lack of self control for the entirety of my existence.

I have known others through out my life with the same affliction and watched such destroy them as it has been slowly destroying me.  I have seen others successfully enhance their problem so that they could make the most of their self indulgence.  What am I talking about my friends? Is it my alcohol problem, I really wish that was the case.  That is something I have always been able to control.  I am talking about my surfing problem.

I get plenty of emails and messages asking why surfing ruined my life.  The answer I always give is that surfing ruins your life when it becomes your life, your main purpose for waking up in the morning.  When you get to this point your life as a citizen of our current social structure ends and your life as a surfer begins.  Tons of people claim they surf and that they are a surfer, but until you have blown off some of life’s most important happenings to ride 2ft wind blown close outs or cashed out on your entire known existence to move half way across the world in pursuit of a wave that has a name you can’t even pronounce your just a dabbler.

Is it worth giving up everything you know for this everyday?

I surf close to 7 days a week and have put myself in a situation where I can surf every day if I really want to.  Those few days a month when I don’t surf I hate myself all day for it.  Don’t believe me peruse the surflog section of this site.  Most surf addicts are in the same boat as myself.  I will even give an honorable mention to guys who although may not get to surf everyday have put themselves into a position that they can and won’t ever miss a fun day.  It is very understandable if you have a wife, kids, house and full time job necessary to support the latter that it is not practical to blow off responsibility for 2ft blown out crap.  Those guys have a schedule to keep and for the most part have done a stellar job to make surfing a part of that schedule.

A few days I posted a surfing blog and a positive one at that, “Better then Sex“.  This blog epitomized the true essence of what surfing is all about.  Its propaganda like this that has the masses stoked on getting into flopping around on a piece of foam.  It fuels, magazines, websites (this is loosely one of them), movies, television,  surf camps, surf schools, surfing resorts and as a direct result surfing is more popular and profitable then it ever has been even in a current period of fiscal recession.  Out of this giant “surfing” population it is only maybe 10%  who are truly addicted, 5% who have given up having a “regular” life for it and 1% who have given up everything in pursuit of the perfect wave everyday for the rest of their lives.

I fall into the 5%.  I need to surf everyday and have like I said structured my life through many series of pain, heart ache and tireless frustration in order to accomplish this.  I have also caused similar to plenty of loved ones and great friends on my journey.  In all truth I really don’t have any friends.  One cannot count on a person who’s entire life is based and planned around a 5 day forecast.  Sure there are as far out as 14-day forecasts but those who are really serious know only the five day can be trusted.  For the last 12 years my life has revolved around the 5-day surf forecast.  At first friends, family, women I have cared about find this intriguing, attractive, even entertaining, but when reality sets in and they realize its not a sport, instead a way of life, a tragic one at that.  Those same allies sooner or later give up.  Just like you would on a hard drug user who won’t quit.

I have begged, burrowed, hustled, stole, lied and cheated in order to keep getting my fix.  When things are good and the surf is pumping us addicts are stoked and awesome people to be around.  When it begins to falter and conditions meager our attitudes change very fast.  Instead of that happy go lucky perpetually stoked individual all the propaganda portrays you have a cranky, frustrated, irritable, aggressive, and ultimately depressed entity  that is a far cry from the advertisements that got one to buy a surf board and wet suit in the first place.

As stoked as I was on Saturday with near epic River Mouth is as let down I have been since.  Following that session of amazing proportions I have surfed nothing even remotely worth the price of admission.  There have been bad winds, even worse tides, terrible swell angles and poor periods.  To make matters worse add in the regular problems and stress of the everyday grind and things become unsettling really fast.  I lost my job, my roommate, can’t keep a girl, summer traffic has been worse then ever thanks to a new highway expansion project that is going to make my life miserable until 2015. By the time that date comes the population will have doubled and the traffic as well thus making the road work to be completely obsolete.  There is nothing worse then sitting in traffic for 2 hours to get to a surf spot that should have taken 20 minutes only for it to be over crowded and 2ft and windy.

Throw in a host of new surfers, both beginners and intermediate.  Its those average “I surf a few times a month or when surfline.com tells me to” that really cause all the trouble.  We can thank every surf camp, surf instructor and the creator of the fish and fun shape for this.  Believe me I helped, which makes it all the more ironic.  Now when its small and terrible, a time when I usually had most breaks to myself or shared with a few other die hards it is packed with groms who think they could be the next Dane Reynolds, kooks who just graduated from their soft tops, soccer moms on their stand up paddle boards and valley boy Joe who just pulled up in his mustang convertible.

It is these days when I hate surfing the most.  I have given up everything to go ride those terrible waves that were once uncrowded.  My stoke meter was already at a 3 and I was forcing myself to paddle.  When you add the crowd that level decreases to .01.  That was me this morning in the dirt lot above Emma Wood, where I sat for a good hour deciding if I should surf, go home, or throw myself off the cliff in front of a passing train.  The train option being my best bet especially since I failed at successfully constructing that guillotine out of the trunk of my car.

After waiting till the wind got harder and the crowd tripled I suited up and headed out.  There were about four peaks working with a few sneakers thrown in.  On the beach there were three telephotos and a video?  I looked around.  There was no one in the lineup worthy of such an entourage and the surf was barely chest high, windy and inconsistent at best.  Then I saw Dane suiting up bringing things into perspective.  Has the surf been that bad this season that photographers have gotten so desperate they need to try and sell pictures of Dane groveling?  I guess so.  He did his usual half hour of Emma.

I jumped in and the water was freezing. If it was 58 I would say it was warm.  I had a 4/3 and booties on and was cold the entire time making the drive home one of me blasting the heat to get the blood flowing again.  I felt like I was in the movie “Top Gun” when all the fighter jets were swarming around Maverick and Goose.  There were groms paddling every which way, kooks in front of me, body surfers and even some idiot on an ocean kayak.  Apparently some people got lost on their way to Mondos.  I got a few forgettable ones that I had to fight tooth and nail for.  Then a set wave slipped past the pack and swung wide right to me. I dropped in, it sucked up and I had a solid stand up tube, came out clean.

My initial instinct was to claim it so that if one of the photogs managed to shot it the sequence would end well.  Then I realized that they were all focused on Dane and these two groms who were ripping. As I was paddling back out this random dude threw a shaka at me and I was glad to share that little bit of stoke on an otherwise uninspiring day with him.  After that it was more terrible ones and more paddle battles, near collisions and tons of frustration.  Finally I got my 20 wave quota and was just looking for that one more.

Of course if you surf this almost always means the ocean is going to go flat and that the good wave wont come.  You have to end on a good on otherwise your  whole day is going to be shit. That was exactly what happen.  I got dropped in on twice.  Blew three late take offs.  Then finally a good left came my way.  I was about to drop into when this little grom maybe 12 paddled me and closed out the section on me.  Normally I let these instances go, but everyone hits their breaking point and this was mine.

I paddled up to the poor unsuspecting grom and looked him right in the eye “Did you think I was not going to catch it?”.  He responded “No”.  “Then why the fuck did you paddle me then?” I replied and I splashed water in his face, the most degrading thing one surfer can do to another in a lineup confrontation and usually when a fight breaks out.  “You know me, I surf with you all the time and you know I don’t miss the waves I paddle for.  Don’t paddle me! I don’t paddle you!” He had a stunned look on his face.  So did I.

I caught the very next wave and went in disgusted with myself for such behavior.  The kid made a common mistake and he was after all a kid, but I was over it. Then again when I was a kid I would not have even thought about paddling a guy who had been surfing longer then I was alive.  The pecking order in today’s lineups has really fallen apart, but that is a blog for another day.  Mostly I was angry at myself cause I ruined this little kid’s stoke for the day and probably put some fear into him about lineup etiquette making him over cautious for a while.

Five days ago I was out having a ball with my fellow surfers, hooting and hollering.  Everyone was stoked and life was great.  Today I wished I had a water proof uzi so I could have mowed down 3/4’s of the lineup.  When you want to know why surfing ruined my life just mull that over for a while. Surfing sucks don’t try it.

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Life is just better in the barrel. This is a very old shot, but a great one.

“Whooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!”  I screamed as I cruised through a solid over head draining barrel coming out dry hair.  It was one of the many I had gotten.  My buddy Brennan shouted back watching the whole thing go down from the bank he was sitting on.  I came off the back shook the water off my hair and paddled over to Brennan.  “Its all time out here man” I said.  “I knew you were going to say something like that” he replied smiling.  “You know Brennan for me I would take a day of surfing like this over a night of sex with the hottest woman in the world” as I laughed in naivete jubilee.

Brennan opened his mouth to say something but before he could I was already paddling down the beach positioning for my next wave another kegger followed by a giant full rotation frontside ally-oop stuck cleanly to the gaping mouths of the two kids surfing the peak adjacent.  Everyone had this shit eating grin on their faces out there.  Why shouldn’t we?  After all it was solid 4-6+ft clean, hucking tubes and only six of us out there sharing eight different perfect peaks.

It was after 12pm too which made no sense at all because the River Mouth always blows out by 10.  My boys Brennan and Christian decided last minute to high tail it down to the Barb from SF for a stag romp chuck full of Lisanity and they definitely got what they bargained for.  We went to some janky Montecito garage sale where I scored a pair of binoculars and a copy of Camus’ The Stranger, one of my favorite short stories, and a vintage 1960’s California surf guide for 11 dollars.  Brennan picked up this crazy shirt with people dancing on it.  Christian scored some multi use pocket tool he kept bragging about.

Prior to that we had a good old fun night of drunken debauchery at the Wild Cat upon their arrival.  At that moment sitting there in the line up thanking the stars for allowing me to have such a great session nothing else mattered. My mind was clear and all I  could think about was my next wave and how much fun I was having.  How much fun everyone was having.  Surfing can be such a drag with bad conditions, excessive crowds etc, so much that it begins to cloud the reason why you do it in the first place.  Then a session like this happens and everyone out there is super stoked hooting and hollering like groms again.

I did not know anyone out there with me besides Brennan and I was as stoked to watch the other guys get amazing rides as much as getting them myself.  Everyone was just laughing and talking and having a gay old time.  Add a crowd of around 60 guys and less then stellar conditions and it would have been a totally different story.  Instead of stoked on one another we would have been grumbling, giving dirty looks, trying to be intimidating all because that guy sitting next to you, your brother may get the next set wave you had been waiting for the last half hour.

Unfortunately in our highly urbanized population sprawled southern California society the latter and not the former is the case more times then not.  It begins to wear you down.  I am not going to lie the world around me, “the real world” not Lisanti Land has been starting to take a serious toll on my psyche as of late.  Things didn’t work out at my new job.  My roommate Danny whom I really was starting to be very pleased with living here let me know he is moving.  My finances are in less then great shape as well at the moment.  Even my tireless quest to find love again has all amounted to more stress then I ever like to have.

By the weekend I was worn down.  I had not had a fun surf in nearly a week either which did not help things any.  Already in great spirits thanks to the arrival of my friends the surf was just the icing on the cake.  It was an amazing beach day as well.  It almost never happens that the wind, weather and waves all work together to create a perfect day.  I know surfing is all about the waves and conditions but there is something about surfing when the sun is out and people are enjoying the beach that just feels so right.

We were lucky to sneak in about two solid hours of surfing till the wind finally came up and trashed it.  I was fine with that cause I had gotten way more then I could have ever expected or hoped for.  That is one of the finer things in life, when you are thrown a brief lull in the midst of a terrible storm.  I could not have asked for anything more this weekend then to spend it with some of my better friends enjoying every moment.  After the surf we got food at my favorite Thai place in Santa Barbara. “Your Place”.

I was pleased since I almost never get to enjoy a meal out anymore. I think the last time I ate at “Your Place” was with Kooky back in March.  From there it was home for a little R&R before gaming up for another romp on the town.  It was another night that did not disappoint.  We talked to some ladies, did some dancing, Brennan found and lost the girl of his dreams.  I ran into my old friend Britters who was in town for a wedding and she was always one of my favorite gals to party with back in the day.  It was almost like a reunion of sorts for all of us remembering a time a few years ago when our lives were a bit more simple.

Things are constantly moving forward at at such a rapid pace that we lose sight of where we are going and even forget where we have been.  Every so often I like to stop and have a look back.  I think its hard to remember the direction we are trying to go with out taking a look at where we have been.

The stuff that makes life worth living…

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Shredding

My second installment in this Groovin’ High series of people who inspire me to wail on the saxophone is none other then my favorite saxophonist of all time, Kenny Garrett.  Before I go on I want to clarify that in this series I am going to feature artists that are still alive and creating new music today.  The jazz cats who are on the scene right now.  There are plenty of guys from the past who helped shaped me into the player I am and I may run that theme at some point as well.  For this succession I am sticking with the players who are turning heads right now.

Kenny Garrett is in my opinion the best altoist I have ever gotten to hear play the instrument.  I have had the privilege of seeing him multiple times in concert and have never failed to be impressed.  If you have never heard jazz live before and have the opportunity to catch a Kenny Garrett show I implore you to check it out.  Whether a jazz fan or not I believe you will walk out in awe.  I brought this classical flutist I was seeing back when I went to Berklee to hear him play.

She was one of these conservatory snobs over at North Eastern. I met her at some frat party over at Boston University.  We were both fish out of water at the thing so it was only obvious that we gravitated towards one another.  As it turns out she was a nut job eventually stalking me for nearly I year after we had broken up.  She was always down on the musicianship of a jazz group.   After hearing Garrett she never had anything to say again.  I took my Dad to one of his shows as well and he too walked out stunned.  The guy is that good.  What else would you expect from a man who played in both Duke Ellington’s and Miles Davis’ last band.

Lets talk a bit about the tune and the album.  “Lonnie’s Lament” is a tune originally written and performed by John Coltrane on the album Crescent and was in the midst of his more avante gaurde recordings.  The important thing to consider musically about Lonnie’s Lament is the fact that  it is a modal tune that incorporates a complex V’s pattern in the chord progression allowing for more interesting improvisation where as in many modal tunes such as “Foot Prints” or “Equinox” the changes can get rather stagnant for the improviser.

The tune can also open the argument that Modal tunes are suppose to be left simplistic to allow for more freedom in one’s improvisation.  What I can say is Lonnie’s Lament is a tough to tune to blow over, but once you figure it out playing on it becomes addictive and its not uncommon to hear a soloist take an excessive amount of choruses as a result.  I know I am good for at least ten before my band would pull the hook on me.  I think most saxophonists on the whole are refrain hogs.  I once saw Sonny Rollins blow fifties choruses of one of his tunes for his solo, then blew on it again after each of his band members took their solos.  I think they played that song for almost 25 minutes.

Lonnie’s Lament is off his 2006 release Pursuance: The Music of John Coltrane.  At first I was uneasy to purchase a tribute album my reasoning being if I want to hear the music of John Coltrane I will just listen to John Coltrane.  In my quest to listen to every track ever played by Garrett I decided to give the album a shot.  I was blown away.  Guitarist Pat Metheny joins him on this collaboration.  Metheny is another one of these players that influence me and will most likely be featured in his own blog at some point.

The two of them burn on the album but really flow in this tune.  Their duel at the end of the song is so fucking hot.  I could go on and on but instead all I am going to say is listen to it…

Then if your enticed please listen to this solo of his from his days with Miles.  This tune is “Human Nature”, Miles’ cover of the Micheal Jackson hit.  It’s a live recording and it really shows how explosive Kenny Garrett really is live.  The solo starts at 3:16 and runs till the end of the track.  I recommend listening to the solo in its entirety.  He locks in so tight with the band towards the end it will have you in an uproar.

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In the land of the right there exists at least one goofy foot’s last stand.

This week’s UCB makes a winner out of Mauriello taking a break from giving out lessons in good morals and instead throwing down good UCB topics.  He asked I write about a certain little wave that both of us have a spot for in our heart.  A surfing spot like none other.  One that has teeth, one that has its own certain charm of gnarl in and out of the water, a surfers surf spot, Santa Clara River Mouth in Ventura California.   I have decided the best way to explain this place is by giving you a run down of an average summer morning for me.

Summertime

An fun looking morning at the River Mouth

 

River Mouth (that is what the locals call the break) is located about a 45 minute drive south of my home here in Santa Barbara.  On a nautical map it exists a few feet below sea level and sticks out a bit further then most beaches in the area allowing it to pull in swell from all angles and then amplify its intensity thanks to the bottom.  In the Late Spring, Summertime and early fall River Mouth goes off courtesy of south swells that sweep down the beach and usually barrel.  Even if its not hallow the waves still throw out like a mother fucker.  On just the right swell angle the place can almost break like a pseudo left hand point break.

In the summer I have to get up pretty early if I want to score the place without wind.  Although Ventura Harbor, where the River Mouth is located is a swell magnet its also a wind magnet.  Usually by 10 am the wind will get on it and by noon the surf is completely blown out.  River Mouth is not one of those waves that you can surf when its windy.  Most of time it gets so messed up getting a ride is impossible.

My first alarm goes off at around 6am.  I like to call this alarm my ambitious alarm.  It was the time I used be to stoked to get up and surf at when I was really fit and living the surfing lifestyle.  These days I hit the fuck you button usually because I am fighting off a hangover from the night before.  The next alarm goes off at 7am, but usually I field at least two calls from creditors before who I owe money to since my pro surfing career went up in smoke back in 2008.  I mean seriously who would extend a $10,000 credit line to a guy who barely made $20,000 a year?  I think if your that stupid you get what is coming to  you.   My credit rating is fucked for life at this point anyway so I say suck it. Thanks for the wake up call though.

At seven I poke my head out of the covers, but summertime is also fog season meaning more days then not its all grey, damp, cold and nasty out.  This makes getting out of bed rather difficult.  Usually I crawl back under the covers for a spell till Alfie decides he wants breakfast and is all over me meowing, clawing my face, licking my face, basically letting me know if I don’t get up and feed his ass soon I am going to be his breakfast.  Not wanting to be eaten I usually comply by 7:30 unless I’m really hung over and then its every man and beast for themselves.  If I am really hung over it means I drank enough to kill most human beings and I feel so sick that I hope Alfie will eat me alive.

By eight I am finally out of bed.  I pull out my computer and check the buoy readings to see what the day is going to have in store for me.  Driving to River Mouth costs me around $10 in gas round trip so I like to make sure I am actually going to be able to surf.  I am not going to give away the readings I look for cause it took me years to figure that out and it is something that has to be earned.   If things look appealing to me.  I pack my board, suit, booties, fill up my water bottle, grab a banana, brush my teeth then cruise. Usually I hit my boy Ryan up to let him know I am coming if he has yet to get me a surf report.

On the way down I let my ipod shuffle take over.  I skip all the slow tunes only stopping at pump up music.  As I am coming up the hill past Sharks Cove in Montecito I do the look back of death.  Ofcourse it’s flat.  It is summertime and there is no way there is enough north west to break the place.  It is one of my favorite waves so I can’t help but pretend just for a moment that it could be going off.  As I drive by Summerland I check the beachie down there and although too small to surf it is a good indicator of the swell angle.  If things look good there I may pick up the pace.

Then when I get to Carpinteria Santa Clause Lane becomes my next indicator.  This is more or less for both wind and swell size.  If its at least knee high there I know River Mouth will have chest high sets.  If things look good there I pick up the pace even harder.  By this point I am cruising at 80mph weaving in and out of traffic pretending I am in the movie “Ronin” most likely singing at the top of my lungs to whatever music I am blaring.  I have the heat blaring as well cause I hate to be cold before a surf.  It just puts a damper on the whole thing.

Nothing like brown water to make you feel safe and healthy and remind me of home.

At this point my boy Ryan has most likely gotten back to me on what’s up.  His intel is very important cause I have to make a decision once I am past Rincon and La Conchita if I should exit at Sea Cliffs and go surf Emma Wood or continue on to River Mouth.  Rincon and La Conchita are also good indicators as well.  By this point I start getting sleepy and have to pinch myself, pull leg hair, pluck eye brows, whatever it takes to not fall asleep behind the wheel ending up flipped in a ditch somewhere.

Rincon can be a good indicator too if the left up top is breaking.  From there I drive past Stanley’s, Hobsons, Trailers, Father John’s and Pitas. There are usually terrible little waves along all these spots that come winter can be all time. Pitas actually does get south swell it just does not break well on them.  From there I pass the palm tree nursery before getting sight of both the Gold Coast and Emma Wood.  This is the moment of truth right here.  If there are waves at Gold Coast then there are definitely waves at River Mouth.

I drive past Emma Wood and laugh at the near thirty guy crowd.  South of Emma is Ventura Campgrounds or the top of the point at Cstreet.  Depending on how this spot looks I can pretty much tell with absolute certainty if I am going to score.  I always make sure to flip off Cstreet on the way by cause I hate that wave.  I get through the town of Ventura and the stub jetties of the state beaches and Pierpont come into view and always entice me with their siren song of waves that always look good from far but are far from good.

Finally I exit off the 101 and work my way to the Harbor at this point whatever direction those flags are blowing will make or break my morning.  If they are slack then its going to be glassy.  Usually they are blowing north west.  I pull into the Harbor and drive north toward the dunes.  I park in front of the highest dunes that are located halfway between New Jetty and the Surfers Knoll.  From up there I can see all the breaks of Ventura harbor and decide where I want to surf.

My surf check dune.

This dune and I have developed a very personal relationship over the years.  It has seen me jump for joy, cower in fear, vomit from the night before, drop to my knees and cry back when Adrienne and I first broke up.  I have taken many of pisses up there.  There is five years worth of decomposing banana peels up there because I eat my banana while checking the surf.  I have thrown a few angry tantrums up there.  Like I said its my dune.  I once whipped Mauriello really hard with a long dune grass vine and got all mad about it.  In consolation I whipped myself just as hard and he was right it hurt like hell.  I think we both had welts from the whipping for a week or so.

This mornings banana discard.

Looking North you have New Jetty and the far big jetty is South Jetty a wedgey right that almost never breaks and when it does is super hard to surf. New Jetty is one of my favorite waves in the area but unfortunately due to poor sand distribution it has been a deep hole all season.

This is looking south from the dunes. The closest wave is called Surfers Knoll which can be really fun in the late winter early spring, but usually too washy in the summer. Past that is the River Mouth sand bars which stretch about a mile or so south till you get to McGrath State Beach.

If I decide I am surfing River Mouth I repark  my car either in the Knoll lot if it is a week day and uncrowded or in the marina lot across the street if I am looking to be low pro and stealth.  The funny thing about parking in the marina lot is that there are all these no beach parking signs, but everyone parks there any way and they are not “strictly enforced”.  I also like to park in the Marina lot cause there are less crack heads, meth heads, bums and heroin addicts hanging around there.  My old photographer Dave and I once saw the cops come arrest this crack head in the Knoll lot.

It was pretty funny.  The dude broke free and took off to the bath room and flushed his stash.  When he came out there were six cops guns drawn.  Then they took him down with very excessive force.  He made some really strange grunt like squeal when then tackled him to the pavement then bashed his head.  There are robberies in the knoll lot at least once a week if not more.  I just try and stay out of that parking lot.  I have been robbed three times there.  It has gotten to the point where I have hallowed out a spot underneath my driver seat where I stash my phone, Ipod and money.  Its not quite north shore bad where you have to leave your windows down and your car open so they wont get smashed, but there is for sure a large number of degenerates who coagulate in that vicinity.

“Strictly Enforced” ha, the harbor patrol is too busy busting crack heads to worry about parking issues.

There are always sketchy things going on in the parking lot and in the marsh reeds that line the river mouth.  From what I have been told there is pretty much an entire bum civilization back there who feed off all the dead marine life and sea birds that constantly line the beach.  I literally saw five dead birds there today.  Four pelicans and duck.  Last year there were tons of dead seals all over the beach and I once saw a dead dolphin as well.  All the currents flow towards that place and the water quality is far from ideal.

Bum food…another one bites the dust…

Usually I surf a section of sand bars called the Reeds just before the actual river mouth.  I always seem to get my best waves there and its easy to line yourself up because you either sit on the north, south or middle of the reeds.  It is also a bit of a hike from the parking lot and most don’t bother to walk past the first few sand bars.

This is the reeds I like to line up with. Behind those reeds is Bumville.

Sometimes the banks further south in front of the River Mouth can be better on long period swell.  If your willing to walk that far you can be sure to beat most of the crowd.

Hmmm whats that in the far left corner you ask? Let me answer: A power plant and an oil field. Oxnard is a beautiful place.

The Tar

The 805 is constantly riddled with an abundance of tar that naturally and most likely not so naturally courtesy of all the oil rigs seeps up from the ocean floor, coagulates into balls and finds its way to the beaches.  River Mouth is one of those beaches that is especially bad.  Once on the beach the tar heats up from the sun and becomes a gooey mess just waiting for you to step in it.  I have giant tar stains on just about everything I own.  My boards are constantly riddled with the brown mess.  As a matter of fact I stepped in a nice ball of tar yesterday before my session.  

Currently my wax is all black and gooey with tar.  The only way to get tar off is with baby oil which works fine, but also makes the shower floor slippery as hell.  I once went down head over heels nearly hitting my head on the tub faucet.  That would be a really shitty way to be found dead naked on the bottom of the tub in a puddle of blood and baby oil.  The authorities would with out a doubt claim I went out in a crazy freak masturbation mishap.  

Winter Time

In the winter its a whole different ball game out there.

Winter is not really River Mouth’s best season.  For the most part the swell direction of the NW’s seem to just come into there as one giant close out as far as the eye can see.  The water is freezing, colder then any other spot in the area and there is no one around.  Even the bums hunker down for the most part.  The only upside to winter is the Off shores.  Ventura Harbor really kind of is the start of the flat plain that runs all the way till Mugu and as a result hard offshore wind sweeps across the open space grooming the surf.  

You know the winds are going to be good if all you can smell is manure from the fields.  Yeah it stinks but the air in the barrel is always nice.  On the whole even with the winds it is still very closed out and usually on a swell anywhere from double to triple over head and stacked as far as you can see.  If your getting out there you are going to take a serious beating.  You will get pitted, but it will most likely just be a big close out tube.  This is the place where the term PGCB (perfectly good closed out barrels) was coined.  You can read more about that in my “I Heart PGCB’s” blog.  It makes for good wide angle barrel photos except for the fact that the current is so bad out there its nearly impossible to stay with your photog.  Dave and I had many of frustrating sessions where we were both getting worked super hard and did not get one decent shot out of it. 

Usually by late winter some really good sand bars can set up more near the knoll and upper River Mouth.  If it is the right swell with the right tide and the wind is offshore you will get some of the best sessions of your life.  I have had some really amazing session on such.  It can be really frustrating too though if you get there too late.  Lots of times those sand bars only turn on for a few hours at best and if you get it at the end of the window you may get one or two amazing ones and then just be back in close out land.  The rips are really bad on theses bars as well.  You will spend the entire session paddling.  

If your diligent and you get first dibs on a good bank you will have it to yourself for maybe a day or two.  Once word gets out all of Ventura, Oxnard and Santa Barbara will be there.  On the whole these bars only last for a few days anyway before the wind goes bad or too big of a swell comes in and tears it apart.  When it happens it can be all time, as good as anyplace.  Here is a video of possibly the best the River Mouth has ever been courtesy of just the right swell angle, wind, rain and sand. It happened in 2005.  I was lucky enough to get two days of this cause I just happened to be here picking up some boards from Jason Feist over at J7 surfboards.

The reality of the winter is more times then not its nothing more then a big close out and if I am going to drive that far I am most likely going to go surf Hollywood or Oxnard Shores where the banks are a bit better that time of year.  The water quality is very poor in winter due to all the rain run off.

Opening the Mouth

The really cool thing about River Mouth is the fact that it is one of the few unfortified river mouths in a heavily populated area.  There are no jetties or controls on it of any kind.  The water flows under the sand naturally allowing for tons of great banks to get created.  On occasion as a result of heavy rain fall it will burst open and when it does great sand can be created.  That does not always happen.  Sometimes it opens and throws out too much sand ruining the spot for weeks.  If it opens and there is not a good swell direction or bad wind the bars wont form good.  This year we got screwed double.  First the mouth opened up way too far to the south and second when they dredged the harbor, which they do every year the sand from that got badly dispersed completely ruining New Jetty for the entire spring, summer and most likely fall season.

Forget about water quality when it opens.  I have had so many bad sinus infections, diarrhea, fevers and other complications as a direct result of surfing in the black water that is created when it opens.  There ends up being dead frogs, fish, birds, tons of trash that all floats out a river that flows for miles inland.  The pesticide run off from all the farms is intense.  We refer to surfing there during such times as “Brown Town”.  Its pretty disgusting.  If its on its totally worth the chance of contracting Hepatitis though.   

For a while a bunch of locals would get together before a swell and actually dig out the mouth to make good sand.  About three years ago Robert from Roberts Surfboards used to rally the troops to dig it out for every good south swell.  That was one of the best spring/summer seasons out there ever.  Even the fall was sick thanks to all the good sand.  I guess the harbor patrol cracked down on it and the last crew to attempt it got arrested and fined.  I don’t think there has been a dig out attempt since.  In the summer and fall it doesn’t rain so its not going to naturally open.

This barrel was a direct result of a man made river mouth opening. Thanks boys, this day was one of the best I ever had out there. Fall 2010 https://surfingruinedmylife.net/surf-log/2010-sessions/october-10/ 10-29-10 entry.

There you have it, my home away from home Santa Clara River Mouth.  I am sure I just pissed off everyone in the 805 for writing this.  You know what I don’t give a fuck. I am there nearly everyday all summer long and surf the place in both the good, the bad and the ugly.  Its a tough wave to surf.  I would not recommend it to beginners, but more moderate to experts.  There are usually tough currents and rip tides so if your not a strong paddler/swimmer drowning can be an issue.  Its an unprotected beach and out at the River Mouth there is not many people around so getting you medical help will take longer then most spots.

The wave itself is very heavy and even on a two foot day can pack a punch.  I have broken six boards there, creased a handful more and taken some heavy wipe outs.  It is sharky too as any river mouth can be.  Although I have never had an encounter I have heard stories and most of the larger marine mammals that wash up dead on the beach have giant bites taken out from them.  Half seals are not uncommon to see.  The water is murky thus confusing the men in grey suits.  

River Mouth is an acquired taste suited to the elite hard core surfer.  If your dedicated you will score.  If you read this and are stoked to come down for a surf good on ya.  I will gladly hoot you into a wave.  Please show respect and don’t pull up with a van full of dudes like a certain Santa Barbara surf school has been doing.  At Santa Clara the rule of two is in full effect.  Follow the code and I will be more then stoked to get tubed with you.

The lay of the land just to give you an idea of what we are talking about. I took this during a solid south swell last Summer 2011.

This is Christy’s my favorite janky luncheonette in Ventura located right across the street from the River Mouth parking lot. This place is rad all the tables have collages of pictures of their customers under glass. Kooky and I wanted to go put a picture of us under the glass. I still may. Waitresses are surly, customers strange and food incredible. I have ended more then one session there. Yum!

Its not all sunshine and roses out here. If you don’t like mornings then this is what you will be greeted with usually by 11am everyday if not earlier.

This is two trees in Ventura California and where I took that aerial photo of River Mouth. I had been surfing there for years looking back a these trees and always wanted to go up there. Finally I did some exploring and found my way up to them. Its really cool cause from that vantage you can see all the way to Pt.Mugu in the south and Emma Wood in the North. I met some old guy the last time I was there and he said the trees were planted in the late 1800’s so Mariners could find the way to the harbor. Its really cool there and a nice hike. I do it regularly.

Cant afford Christy’s no worries there is plenty of good eating up and down the beach. Looks like someone has already been gnawing on this guy though. Don’t fret I’m sure there are plenty of other dead animals with in striking distance of this unfortunate.


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