Tag Archives: Surfing

Film Review: “Just Add Water” – Surfer Clay Marzo Living In An Element All His Own

scoping it

By Connor Buestad

Michael Jordan used to stick out his tongue when he was in the midst of creating basketball brilliance on the hardwood; Clay Marzo tends to rub his hands together as fast as he can before he shreds apart a wall of water on his surfboard. Different idiosyncrasies, same mind blowing talent.

“Just Add Water”, released in 2008, is a surf film that is visually stimulating, audibly pleasing, and mentally challenging. It gives you a glimpse into the life and times of 21-year-old surfing genius Clay Marzo, a person who lacks rudimentary social skills while at the same time possessing otherworldly surfing ability.

Marzo “suffers” from Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high functioning Autism. The condition prevents Marzo from functioning successfully in most social situations, while at the same time allowing him to focus on one activity abnormally long and with great intensity. Marzo’s activity of choice is surfing, of course, and his mental focus coupled with his naturally athletic talents make for a surfing ability we’ve never quite seen before. An absolute terror on the face of a wave, Marzo’s body remains in perpetual movement. His surfing style is a series of spins, airs, barrels and breakneck speed. Never stopping to think about what’s next, just doing it.

Out of all the surf porn I’ve watched over the years (oops), it is rare to see so many accomplished pros gush over one man so supportively. Whether it’s Tom Curren, Dane Reynolds, Kelly Slater, or the late Andy Irons (RIP), they all have that look in their eye when they talk about Clay. Irons, a champion surfer who suffered from self described “inner demons,” was especially fond of Marzo’s go-for-broke, mind-turned-off style of surfing. Early on in the film, Irons fondly describes Marzo by saying, “I’ve never seen someone surf so much. This kid is really surf-psych-grom.” If you don’t know what “surf-psych-grom” literally means, I’m not exactly sure myself, but you can tell Irons is stoked on the kid and his penchant for surfing out of his mind.

More than featuring excellent surf and music by the world’s best, “Just Add Water” also explores Aspergers to a depth where you really begin to understand Clay and his troubles dealing with life on land. If it were up to Marzo, he’d spend every waking moment out in the surf, away from the pressures of society of which he is fundamentally not equipped to deal with. A newly minted poster boy for the sport, companies are out to shape Marzo into the next Michael Jordan of surfing, following in the footsteps of Kelly Slater. Trouble is, Marzo’s condition prevents him from carrying a 10 minute one-on-one conversation, let alone a Quiksilver marketing campaign.

Because of his social handicap, Marzo is left open to varying degrees of criticism by those who fail to understand him and his eccentric ways. Described by some as a stoner, or a lazy asshole, it is easy to write off Marzo as someone who doesn’t care about the world around him. Within this film there is certainly a case to be made for this argument that Clay is a selfish, flaky surf junkie who won’t give you the time of day. At the same time, it is hard to dismiss the characteristics of Aspergers and the debilitating effect it can have on one’s social ability. Whether you fancy yourself as a surfer, a music lover, or simply an inquisitive mind, I invite you to give “Just Add Water” a whirl and see it through to the end.

"The hardest artist. Like Picasso, the painter." (Mac Dre)


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Mavs Goes Mental; Contest A No-Go

By Garrett Wheeler

After a slow start to the ’09-’10 surf season, the N-Pac is now wide awake thanks to the back-to-back mega-swells that slammed Hawaii and the mainland West Coast within a two week period. The first swell arrived in California around Thanksgiving, and was a fitting precursor to what the surf world has dubbed Monster Monday.

On Monday, December 7 things got heavy on the North Shore as Waimea Bay held solid 40-footers for those brave enough to risk life and limb. Aussie legend Tom Carroll was among those to feel the wrath of the Bay, suffering a broken leg and ankle after an exploding lip detonated on top of him. Two days later, after the Eddie ran in perfect 25-foot Waimea on December 8, the swell hit California and our very own big-wave spot went absolutely mental. Here’s a glimpse of what the action looked like at Mavs on the morning of December 9:

Half Moon Bay's hell-wave gets evil on Dec. 9, 2009.

And the contest? No-sir. Contest directors gave two reasons for not giving the green light on Wednesday: the possibility of sub-par conditions and the fact that most of the world’s big wave contingent was in Hawaii having just surfed the Eddie the day prior. As far as excuses go, well, I guess I’m half-buyin’ it. As you can see by the photo above , conditions were A-quality, but the fact that Grant “Twiggy” Baker, Greg Long (who won the Eddie, by the way), and even Flea were a half an ocean away on Oahu was surely a bit of a problem. Could the surfers have boarded the red-eye Aloha Airlines flight and made it to HMB by 8am Wednesday morning? Sure. But did they want to?Probably not, as the decision to run the contest ultimately comes down to a vote by the surfers themselves.

Ocean Beach has also been going ballistic, and for those of us who don’t wax up 10 foot guns on giant swells, there were plenty of thrills up in SF. I’ll leave you with a little pic of the same day as above, at OB.

Cold, yes. But well worth a little ice-cream to nab one of these suckers.

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Summertime Score

If you walk, you shall find.

If you walk, you shall find.

By Garrett Wheeler

Surfing can be a lot like roulette: invest a few dollars, spin the wheel and hope for the best. Usually things don’t work out, a result of the odds that are constantly stacked against you. Wind, tide, swell, sandbars, even other surfers are all variables that stand in the way of a surfer and his unyielding attempt to score good, un-crowded surf. But every once in a while, the elements come together to create a wave-induced anomaly- and the result is pure, unadulterated bliss.

And so it was, during the recent succession of southern-hemi swells that I scored really, really good waves.

As May gave way to June, a string of fun-sized south swells made their way to California, no doubt lighting up the coast from Mexico to Oregon, sending surf-starved guys like me scurrying to various south-facing breaks in hopes of finding some good nuggets to call their own. But as is characteristic of off-season south swells, the hordes were on it, and the surf itself was painfully inconsistent. After quickly checking the go-to spot in Half Moon Bay, it was clear that crowds were going to be a factor. I watched as twenty-five guys attempted to share a peak that only produced about six good waves every twenty minutes. Not satisfied, I headed south.

The wind stayed calm until I passed Pigeon Point, where a light onshore flow had made its ugly presence known, turning the beach breaks into crumbly slop. The tide was too high for another popular south-facing wedge, and I knew Santa Cruz proper would be packed to the brim. North of town, I pulled off Highway 1 and watched a dozen guys surfing a couple mushy peaks. I knew I could do better.

On a whim, I skirted back up north and pulled off the road to a trailhead that winds its way over a half mile of sand dunes before emptying onto an isolated stretch of beach. I had checked this spot a few times, never surfed it, but heard that it liked south swells. I knew it would be clean, and I new there’d be waves, but I didn’t know if anyone else would be out. Surfing alone on this part of the coast can be a nerve-racking experience, given the proximity to Ańo Nuevo and its well-publicized white shark seal buffet. But as I threw my wetsuit and towel over my surfboard, another truck parked behind me and two surfers got out. Apparently we had the same idea.

As I walked ahead of my new companions in the afternoon sun, the excitement began to set in. I couldn’t see the beach yet, but I had a good feeling about what it would look like. Halfway through the hike, I couldn’t take it any more- the anticipation sent me running over the dunes like a giddy schoolboy. Finally I reached the last dune, made it to the crest and…my heart started pumping. Pushing into the cove was a sick little A-frame, maybe head high, peeling to either side all the way to the beach. Nobody out. I couldn’t get changed fast enough, scrambling into my suit, mind racing in excitement.

Just hope you find something that looks like this. Photos by Chris Burkard.

Just hope you find something that looks like this. Photos by Chris Burkard.

I scored. Surfed till my arms turned to noodles. Short, punchy rights. Walled-up lefts. Just me and two new friends, reaping the rewards of a gamble that paid off.

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Surfer Magazine Declares Santa Cruz #1 Surf Town, Locals Threaten Violence

The (illusion of) solitude at Steamer Lane, pre-Surfer article.

The (illusion of) solitude at Steamer Lane, pre-Surfer article.

By Garrett Wheeler

Ok, so the above title is erroneous- nobody threatened anybody with violence, at least not openly. But something tells me that after Santa Cruz’s finest get a hold of the latest issue of Surfer Magazine, they’re going to be really f—king pissed.

Citing consistency of quality waves and a “low-key but thriving art scene, great wine, and access to massive expanse of naturally beauty”, the article placed Santa Cruz atop its list of America’s best surf towns. Nobody can disagree with the finding, except for the #2 town, Haleiwa, Hawaii. That little North Shore village is home to some of the best waves on earth (see: Pipeline, Backdoor, Sunset), and certainly blows Santa Cruz out of the water in that respect. But for reasons like “proximity to the West Coast’s most metropolitan city” and “numerous legendary breaks”, Surfer went with Santa Cruz. And now, I can tell you without hesitation, the locals want blood.

Beneath the hippy façade built by UCSC and the town’s vast array of “soul searchers”, Santa Cruz is a very angry place. Meth addicts abound, bar fights are common, and the local surfers, well, they don’t like you. At all. Outsiders are seen as invasive species, much in the way that Native Americans justifiably view white dudes as total rapists of their once sacred land. Breaks are ridiculously crowded, and kooks from Ojai to San Jose are completely oblivious to all forms of surfing etiquette. The hatred expressed by local surfers is best summarized by the lovely name given to all non-locals: maggot.

And so, now that Surfing Magazine has done its journalistic duty to the surfing world and reported on the best places for surfers to live, locals are undoubtedly disappointed. Disappointed to know that magazine subscribers in Fremont, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, and Gilroy will now be convinced that there is no better place in the US to go surfing than Santa Cruz. Disappointed to know that SUVs full of pimple-faced high-schoolers from Menlo Park will continue pouring into the Lane and the Point. But most of all, Santa Cruz locals will be disappointed that the word is out: Santa Cruz is a special place.

Wait, that’s not news.

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Santa Barbara’s Bobby Martinez takes Chopes…Again

Bobby Martinez gets shacked on his way to a win at the Billabong Pro 2009 Tahiti.

Bobby Martinez gets shacked on his way to a win at the Billabong Pro 2009 Tahiti.

By Garrett Wheeler

Backing up his 2006 victory at Teahupo’o, Santa Barbara goofy-footer Bobby Martinez once again came away with a win at the notorious Tahitian death-slab, taking out Australian Taj Burrow in the final heat. The event ran in less-than-stellar conditions, with semi-clean 3 to 5 foot surf on tap throughout the week. Chopes is famous for its massive days, when the wave produces left-hand barrels square enough to drive a school-bus through, with a lip as fat as the tube is wide. But for the sixth straight year, the contest yielded relatively average surf- nonetheless an exciting venue for the world’s best to duke it out.

The story of the contest was definitely all about the upsets, with everyone from this year’s frontrunner Joel Parkinson to Kelly Slater and Andy Irons getting eliminated midway through the contest. 23 year old Aritz Aranburu, a Basque-Country surfer ranked second to last, became the event’s official giant slayer, taking out Dane Reynolds, former event winner Damien Hobgood, Aussie Tom Whitaker, and finally Kelly Slater en route to an appearance in the semi-final. Watching the live Webcast, I heard Mark Occhilupo (known as Occy in the surfing world) comment that the contest had to be “one of the most bizarre contests in ASP history, I reckon”. Whatever you reckon, Occ.

Viewers lucky enough to be watching the mid-round heat of Mick Fanning versus Benn Dunn were treated to the best of what professional surfing has to offer. Needing a last-minute score in order to advance against Dunn, Fanning took off on a buzzer-beater wave that turned out to be one of the best sets of the day, doubling up over the reef and yielding an overhead tube. Fanning threw himself over the ledge, drop-knee stalled inside the barrel and got spit out twenty yards down the line, earning the highest score of the heat and a berth into the next round.

Bobby M. is quickly gaining a rep as one of the best Chopes surfers in the world, capable of getting shacked on nearly any size wave. Funny that he grew up surfing one of the best rights in the world (Rincon) – wonder where he learned how to ride left-hand tubes? Strand? Pipe? Guess that’s kind of like asking where Slater learned to ride big waves- not Florida, that’s for sure.

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Parko Wins Another- Do We Care?

We might now care much about pro surfing, but Bay Area surfers still love to watch Dane Reynolds surf Chopes.

We might not care much about pro surfing, but Bay Area surfers still love to watch Dane Reynolds surf Chopes.




Last week, Aussie surfer Joel Parkinson won his second straight WCT event at Bells Beach, starting the 2009-10 season with back-to-back victories over the’07 World Champ Mick Fanning, and more notably, last year’s winner Kelly Slater. But the question is: does anybody really care?


In the world of professional surfing, Parko’s win is big news. He’s two for two thus far, and miles ahead in the point ratings, leading Mick Fanning and Fred Patachia by a long shot. Parko is yet to win a world title, though the regular footer’s unbelievably smooth style and likable personality have made him a fan favorite on the Gold Coast for years. But what about in the Bay Area? Does he have any fans here?


It’s tough to relate to the Australians in terms of caring about pro-surfing; after all, Australia is home base to the multi-billion dollar (really, it is) surf industry, and surfing as a sport ranks second in national popularity behind rugby. Look on a map and you’ll see that every major city on the continent is near the coast, geographically engraining a beach lifestyle, and ultimately surfing, into the Australian way of life.


American’s, and specifically Bay Area surfers, aren’t totally uninterested in pro surfing. Take Kelly Slater. True, the 9-time world champion is probably better known to the collective public for his role in Baywatch and for dating Pam Anderson, but that doesn’t take away the fact that he’s the 9-time world champion. The Champ, as he’s known in some circles, is unarguably the greatest surfer of all time, competitively and otherwise, still capable of mutilating any size wave at any spot in the world- at age 37 no less. The greatest surfer of all time happens to be from Florida. Not exactly the Bay Area, but still, he’s an American, and for that, we can be proud of all that he’s accomplished.


On a slightly more localized scale, the state of California is home to some of the greatest professional surfers of the past and present. Tom Curren, Slater’s direct predecessor, is from Santa Barbara, and there are a handful of California guys on tour now, including the most exciting young surfer on the planet, Dane Reynolds. Reynolds grew up in Ventura, though yearly trips to Santa Cruz prove that he’s not afraid of cold water, and the kid is as innovative a surfer as the sport has ever seen. Bay Area surf fans should, and do root for Reynolds as he dukes it out with the big guns on a monthly basis.


Aside from the hype, or lack thereof, surrounding the Association of Professional Surfing (ASP) here in the Bay Area, we do represent an interesting niche geographically. Only a short drive south lies one of California’s surfing hotbeds, Santa Cruz. Surf City North (as opposed to Huntington Beach) boasts some of the best waves, and surfers, on the west coast. The pro-minded influence certainly seeps into the lineups of Ocean Beach, and of course Mavericks. Though it’s rare to see a Santa Cruz pro out at Ocean Beach even on a perfect day, all Bay Area surfers inevitably make the drive to Santa Cruz’s point breaks on a semi-regular basis.


The Cold Water Classic at Steamer Lane is one of the more prestigious WQS events, and pros from all over the world fly into San Jose to take a crack at the perfect rights created by the famed break. But still, there’s something distinctly different once you drive and hour north. The surf is colder, bigger, and windier, and the surfers are fewer. Not many guys have stickers on their boards, and not many guys boost huge airs. All in all, the geographical features of this stretch of coast produce an atmosphere that is less concerned with pro surfing than with ice-cream headaches, blown-out surf, and the ominous presence of the man in the grey suit. But that doesn’t mean we can’t root for Dane when he’s battling a couple of Aussies halfway across the world.






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